How to Get Permission to Sell Fan Art – Sell Fan Art Legally

The main way to get permission to sell fan art is to obtain a license from the copyright holder. This is called Getting Permission to sell fan art. Below I will detail how to get permission to sell fan art.

How to get permission to sell fan art – Get a License

How do I get a license?

You are convinced that you are going to sell at least ten thousand items, and you understand the risks, but you still and to go ahead and attempt to get a license.

Identify the copyright holder

Determine who owns the rights to the franchise or character you want to create cool fan art of. This may be a production company, a publisher, or an individual artist.

Contact the License Holder

The first thing you should do is get in contact with the licensing department of the organization. This move should be made before you even make fan art. Otherwise, you are creating something illegal.

Below this section I have a sample letter you can use.

Nintendo, for example, has a standard response to requests for licenses. It goes along the lines of “Thanks for asking, but the answer is no.

We receive thousands of requests and do not have enough staff to deal with it, so our policy is no permission granted.”

Mostly larger companies, if they identify the potential for an item related to the copyright will pursue it themselves or seek a company to make it for them, on their terms.

Some companies have a web page that advises on licensing their products. In the case of Walt Disney, it is https://www.disneystudiolicensing.com/ Marvel also has a page: marvelconsumerproducts@marvel.com .

To check other companies, google _“[COMPANY NAME] LICENSING.” _Typically, these websites will refer you to an individual with whom you can make your request.

Sample letter to the copyright owner

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State, Zip]
[Email Address]
[Phone Number]
[Date]

[Copyright Owner’s Name or Company’s Name]
[Their Address]
[City, State, Zip]

Subject: Request for Permission to Sell Fan Art Inspired by [Title of the Original Work]

Dear [Copyright Owner’s Name or Company’s Name],

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is [Your Name], and I am an artist who has been deeply inspired by [Title of the Original Work]. [Briefly explain your connection to the work, e.g., what it means to you, how it has influenced your art, etc.]

I am writing to seek your permission to create and sell fan art based on [Title of the Original Work]. I have been working on a series of artworks that are my own interpretations and tributes to this remarkable [book/movie/series/etc.]. I want to clarify that these artworks are purely a form of artistic expression and appreciation.

I understand and respect that [Title of the Original Work] and its characters, settings, and other elements are copyrighted properties of [Copyright Owner or Company’s Name]. As such, I am seeking your formal approval to sell my fan art in a limited capacity. Here are the specifics of my request:

  • The nature of the artworks: [Provide a brief description of the art pieces and how they relate to the original work.]
  • The manner of sale: [Explain how you intend to sell the fan art, e.g., online store, at conventions, etc.]
  • The scope of the distribution: [Mention if you are planning a limited run, how many pieces you intend to create, etc.]

I am committed to respecting your rights and will ensure that all my artworks will be properly credited, acknowledging [Title of the Original Work] as the source of inspiration. Additionally, I am open to any terms and conditions you might require, such as a licensing agreement or a royalty arrangement.

I hope you will consider this request favorably. I believe that my fan art will not only celebrate [Title of the Original Work] but also introduce it to new audiences in a creative way. I am happy to provide samples of my work for your review upon request.

Thank you very much for considering my request. I look forward to the possibility of working together in honoring the legacy of [Title of the Original Work]. Please feel free to contact me at [Your Phone Number] or [Your Email Address] should you have any questions or need further information.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Negotiate terms

If the copyright holder is willing to grant permission, negotiate the terms of the agreement. This may include licensing fees, restrictions on the types of products you can sell, and other conditions.

You have no idea how much this will cost as there are no set rules on prices. The copyright organization can ask whatever they like for a license. For any well-known brand, this is probably going to be well over $100,000.

Remember, you pay this fee before you make the artwork you want to sell.

Obtain written permission

Once you have reached an agreement with the copyright holder, obtain written permission that outlines the terms of the agreement. Keep this permission on file in case you need to show it to potential customers or if there are any legal disputes in the future.

Remember, it’s important to always obtain permission and licenses before selling fan art to avoid copyright infringement and legal issues.

If you are unsure about how to obtain permission or if you have any questions about the legality of selling cool fan art, consult a lawyer or legal expert.

Companies that allow fanart

There are several companies and platforms that allow artists to create and sell fan art legally, by entering into partnerships with the copyright holders.

Some of these platforms include Redbubble, Teepublic, and DesignByHumans.

These platforms work by collaborating with various brands and allowing artists to create fan art under certain conditions, often involving specific guidelines and approval processes.

Redbubble, for instance, has a partnership program with a wide range of brands, and artists can submit their fan art designs for approval.

Each brand associated with Redbubble has its own set of terms and conditions that artists must adhere to.

Similarly, Teepublic operates under a similar model and shares many of the same brand partnerships as Redbubble, especially after being acquired by Redbubble in 2018.

DesignByHumans also collaborates with big brands, allowing artists to create and sell fan art through their “Fan Shops” program.

These platforms generally have guidelines for submitting fan art, which include avoiding offensive material, ensuring originality in designs, and adhering to specific branding requirements.

Once an artist’s design is approved, they can sell their fan art and earn royalties, while the platform takes care of the legal agreements and royalties to the copyright holders.

It’s important to note that these platforms have specific requirements and processes for submitting and selling fan art, and artists should thoroughly read and understand these before participating.

Can I sell fan art while awaiting permission?

If you’re asking can I sell fan art while waiting permission, the short answer is: No.

It is not recommended to sell fan art while you are still awaiting permission from the copyright holder.

Selling fan art without permission can be considered copyright infringement, which is illegal and can result in legal consequences such as fines, lawsuits, or even criminal charges.

While you may be eager to start selling your fan art, it’s important to wait until you have obtained proper permission and licenses to do so.

If you are unsure about whether your fan art is legal to sell, it’s best to consult a lawyer or legal expert who can advise you on the specific laws and regulations in your country or region.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to copyright and intellectual property rights.

How to legally sell fan art Without Permission – There is a way

As you can see, it is pretty hopeless for the small fan artist to sell his/her work if it is in the fan art category.

Even if you try to do the right thing and get a license, you will probably fail. It looks pretty hopeless.

However, if you move to just one of three countries in the world there is a way on how to legally sell fan art without permission but this is an extreme step.

These countries are Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and San Marino.

In these countries, they are NOT SIGNATORIES OF INTERNATIONAL TREATIES and have no copyright law, so you can do whatever you want, as long as you create your work there and sell within those three markets.

Is it legal to sell fanart on Redbubble?

For most artists who create fan art and do not expect to have the volumes of sales to support the cost of a license there is also the option of paying royalties through a site such as RedBubble.com that has the Redbubble fanart program in place.

redbubble
Redbubble.com – Redbubble fanart program

Redbubble.com has a few agreements in place with copyright owners via its Redbubble fanart program and have taken the steps to arrange for royalties to be paid to many copyright owners on your behalf.

But be warned, the agreements do not cover all types of fanart and Redbubble may revoke the permission if the agreement expires or is pulled by the copyright holder and you will be told to take down your cool fan art.

These royalties will be paid to the copyright owners whenever a sale is made on their site.

Read on as we cover How to Get a License, What is Fan Art, Can I Distribute Fan Art for Free and more.

What is fan art?

Fan Art - Photo by BP Miller
Fan Art – Photo by BP Miller

Creating Fan Art is a popular activity followed by many artistic fans around the world.

It usually involves an independent, often amateur, artist creating creative pieces that are based on copyrighted characters found in popular books, comics, TV, and movies.

We take a look at the issues of fan art copyright and the lack of permission to sell fan art and hopefully point you in the right direction so that you get permission to sell fan art legally.

Is fan art legal? I see so much fan art online

Look, the issue of fan art is complex. Plainly put, making fan art is not illegal. Things get cloudy when you want to start selling fanart.

  1. Copyright Law Basics: Under copyright law, creating a derivative work, like fan art, typically requires the permission of the copyright holder. Fan art is often created without obtaining this permission, which technically can make it a form of copyright infringement.
  2. Fair Use Doctrine: In some cases, fan art can be protected under the Fair Use Doctrine (in the United States) or similar provisions in other countries. Fair use is determined by several factors, including the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use on the potential market. However, applying fair use to fan art can be unpredictable and highly specific to each case.
  3. Attitude of Copyright Holders: Some copyright holders are more lenient towards fan art. They might view it as a form of free promotion or as an enhancement to their fan community. However, this attitude can change, especially if they feel the fan art is harming their business or misrepresenting their work.
  4. Commercial Use: Fan art created for personal enjoyment is less likely to attract legal action than fan art that’s sold for profit. When fan art is commercialized, it’s more likely to be seen as infringing on the copyright holder’s rights, especially if it competes with the original work’s market.
  5. Licensing and Partnerships: As mentioned earlier, some platforms like Redbubble, Teepublic, and DesignByHumans have agreements with copyright holders to allow the sale of fan art legally. These platforms manage the legal aspects, including royalties and permissions, on behalf of the artists.
  6. Legal Precedents: There have been legal cases involving fan art, but these often depend on the specific details of each case. The outcomes of these cases can’t always be generalized to all fan art situations.

Just browse the Internet, and you will see large volumes of fan art openly on sale.

It appears that many artists get away with it blatantly.

In fact, many are hit by legal instructions issued by copyright holders, like Disney and Marvel, and forced to remove the items from the sale.

Others deal with specialist offshore hosting companies that ignore copyright notices and do not disclose who is behind the website.

We see it not only with art but also with toys, fashion items and electronics.

Need some Fan Art Ideas? I have the perfect Hacks and a listing from A-Z

This link Fan Art Ideas Hacks with awesome examples from A to Z will take you to another article where I describe in detail how I find unique fan art ideas.

What does the law say?

Rob Girkin Law Books
Law Books – Photo by Rob Girkin (Unsplash.com)

Moving on to copyright laws, we enter a complex world that seems to depend on the whims of individual judges, who often contradict other judges.

We also find ourselves in an international arena where laws are different in almost every country.

This confusion is despite there being a variety of international treaties that they signed. These agreements include;

· The (WIPO) Copyright Treaty

· The Universal-Copyright-Convention

· The WIPO Performances/Phonograms Treaty

· The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IPR

Can I distribute my fan art free?

You have more chance of being left alone by copyright holders if you start distributing your fan art for free, without too much fanfare.

Doing it on a non-profit basis, many copyright holders will not be too concerned. One or two actively encourage it.

However, it is entirely within the legal rights of any copyright holder to request you stop.

Some specific individuals show no mercy and hit the artist fast and hard for the slightest copyright infringement.

Typically, you will get a request to remove the items, and if you comply, then that will be it.

You will hear no more. However, copyright holders can demand payment.

What is Fair Use?

In countries with a British legal history, including the USA, there is a concept called “FAIR USE.”

This concept allows copyright to be infringed in certain circumstances, and this will depend on the following:

· Purpose and character of the use

· Nature of the copyrighted piece

· The amount used

· What effect has it had on the original piece

· Some extra factors.

Fair use is a defense against a copyright claim and will be decided in court, and this is where different judges are more lenient than others.

So even though you may think it is fair use, you might still lose the case, and of course, end up with a lot of legal fees.

Can I sell my fan art?

If you start selling work that infringes copyright, there is much more likely that you will be pulled up by the copyright holder than if you are giving it away.

Can I get my fan art licensed?

Now this is where we start to answer the question of how to get permission to sell fan art. It comes down to licensing, but it’s not as simple as I had hoped.

Technically the correct way of legally selling your fan art is to get it licensed by the copyright holder.

This process will result in the copyright holder making a small royalty on every product that you sell.

The trouble is that the copyright holder usually has no interest in going to the trouble of entering legal agreements with some small independent artist.

The reason is that small independent artists will only make them a small amount of money and they are not usually worth the effort.

They also would worry that your item would bring the original character into disrepute or could involve them in some legal dispute in the future.

For the relatively small amount of money and the legal costs and time involved in licensing, it is not seen as worth their while.

If you were going to be selling over 10,000 items, then perhaps they might consider it.

You would also be liable for upfront fees, and if you did get the license and then failed to make enough sales, it could cost you a lot of money.

From both sides, a small licensing deal does not make a lot of sense.

By the time you have finished paying lawyers and paid upfront fees to the copyright holder, it is unlikely to make a lot of financial sense.

Wrap up!

As you can see, you can legally get permission to sell fan art and it involves licensing. The issue is, are you big enough with deep enough pockets to warrant licensing?

If the answer is most likely no, then I would recommend selling your fan art via a website that has agreements to legally sell fan art such as Redbubble with its Redbubble fanart program.

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