Whether a book, a television show, a cartoon, or a comic, there is a fanbase for almost every series on the planet, and where there is a fanbase, fan art is bound to be found. Fan art is often a very controversial topic (the debate of legality and if it is “real art”), however, works are created, spread, and sold with or without creator consent.

Creations of art, fiction, or any other media are often produced by fans as a means of appreciation and love for another work for its characters, content, message, and more. This can include drawings of characters from another person’s work, writing a story based upon another person’s characters, printing movie characters on a shirt, and much more. Fan art or fan fiction can infringe on the copyright and trademark rights of the original creator and work by using many elements from the original work in the fan-made adaptation (Is It Legal to Create Fan Art, LawSoup). However, a quick search through the internet and thousands upon thousands of art, all created for thousands of fanbases. There are countless websites where people may sell pins, prints, and other works of their favorite celebrities and characters, all of which can infringe on the copyright or trademark of the original people or creators.

Even though there are copyright laws against it, many independent fans are creators of works that utilize the characters and elements of another creator. Most of these creators making a profit from their fan art are infringing on the original creator without consequences, but should there really be consequences? Fan art that uses elements and characters from another creator is against copyright law, but are usually unaffected as long as no profit is made. On the other hand, fan art may also be seen as direct competition if the work is done as well as the original. If the owner grants permission for someone to use their copyrighted characters and such, that person is allowed to profit legally from fan art of the original copyrighted work. For many creators, fan art can be the basis of their small business, creating products that no one can purchase anywhere else, and these items are often made without permission from the copyright owner.

For some fan art creators, there may be no consequences at all if they are not making a large profit from their work. This makes dealing with copyright infringements happen case by case, where some creators are subject to being under fire from copyright law while others are let free simply because of how much money they make from the fan art. Anyone who sells work that includes characters of another work should receive permission from the original creator if any profit is to be made. If there is no profit and the fan art is clearly labeled as unofficial, that work should not be under fire by copyright, especially since fan art more often than not will boost publicity and raise awareness of the original work. On the other hand, if any vendor wishes to create products based on anything that belongs to a different creator, the vendor should receive permission from the original creator for the right to sell such items. However, with hundreds of sellers already profiting from their fan art based stock, for original creators to be contacted countless times for permission to use their work is almost futile. There are already numerous products being sold worldwide for each fanbase and keeping track at this point is almost a loss cause.

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Alexa Joy Fernandez

One thought on “Illegal Fan Art

  1. I have always enjoyed fan art in many works, but copyright has always been a problem. From my perspective, fan art should ideally make zero profit. In previous experience many authors will make fanwork and sell them in cost price. However then the labor cost of the fan art authors is not considered and calculated. So I think small profits should also be allowed, as it also helps to promote and popularize the original IP in most cases.

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