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  • Writer's pictureMikaela Copland

#6 - Should you continue making Fan Art?

The following article is a transcript of Episode 6 of the Fan Art Series on Don't @ Me Podcast. ✨Listen Here

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, have never or do not have the intention of studying law, therefore I’m not qualified to give legal advice. This is just presenting research and providing commentary. Please seek official legal advice for thorough information and representation if you want more information about anything said in this podcast.

Hi and welcome to the final episode of the Fan art series on Don’t @ Me!

I’m your host, Mikaela Copland and I’m really glad you’ve made it this far!

Thank you for joining me again.

Now we’ve come to the part where you’re overwhelmed with information and don’t know where to go next. That’s alright, I’ve gotchu.

Throughout my research, I have compiled 10 suggestions for you if you would like to continue making fan art.

So let’s dive in!

  • Check the Redbubble Fan Art Program Before you identify your subject of the fan art, check who has signed up to Redbubble’s fan art program. If you take inspiration from a business or celebrity that is listed on there, then that’s an easy way to know that you have permission to sell on Redbubble. However I know a large majority aren’t on there, so let’s continue with suggestions for if your subject isn’t on the Redbubble list.

  • Check Once you identify the subject of the fan art, check Use the search function and find any and every trademark they have. Try different names, partner companies, etc. You should be proficient in their trademarks by the end of it.

  • Check your Materials Identify if the material you’re using is included in the trademark. By material I mean the actual thing you are making the art on. For example, clothes, jewellery, music, canvas, etc. Trademarks usually include a BUNCH of stuff, however there is a chance that if your idea is unique enough, that material may not be protected by it.

  • Check their History Google the company with key words such as “lawsuit”, “copyright”, “sues”, “fan art”, etc to see if they have any history of filing cases. If they’re known to go after small artists, like Taylor Swift is, I’d steer clear. Sometimes companies also have policies in place for fan art, so be sure to check their website or Redbubble’s fan art program.

  • Find Similar Artists If you’ve passed this, then find other stores who sell similar things. I would reach out and ask if they have had any trouble selling or posting their art, to give you a heads up for what you’re in for. There are usually big communities for popular celebrities, so it’s not too hard to find one of your peers.

  • Get Proper Legal Advice This next step can be unrealistic for a beginner artist’s budget, but if you’re making art of a big celebrity and want your art to be a long term business, I would suggest getting legal advice. As I’m not official advice, they will have more specific advice to the fan art you’re making as well as if you have a case to argue a fair use defense.

  • Research Fair Use On fair use, do more research into transformative art to see if you can put a twist on your work so it’s more likely to serve a higher purpose.

  • Ask an Important Question This next one is important, consider if you really have to sell your fan art. Could you make fan art to gain a following but make original work to sell?

  • Never Call Art Merchandise However, if you’re selling fan art, always call it art. Never merchandise. I was told this by an employee who worked with One Direction. They told me that the management team saw an account making fan art of the member, they would see it is appreciative and user-generated content. However as soon as the word merchandise is used, it made them think of sales and commercial endeavors. Companies hear this and think you’re stealing money from them. At least with using the word ‘art’, it has the connotations of being creative, hand made, inspired from, etc rather than anything financial related.

  • Research the Platform If you’re using Etsy, Redbubble or Deviantart, read up on their policies. All platforms will blanketly take down things with specific key words if a copyright holder submits a claim. Use as little of a trademarked name as possible. Don’t even put it in your listing or tags, they go through both. I would use social media, hashtags, etc to push customers to your site instead of them using the search function. If you do use phrases in your art, as we discovered, song titles are less likely going to be flagged unless they are super unique.

And there you have it.

Not to toot my own horn but this research took months and I’m glad to finally put it out to the world! Hopefully you now understand how the law affects fan art.

I did promise this series earlier in November but with lockdown, work and moving out, it did get ahead of me. So thank you so much for your patience!

I have a feeling this won’t be the last episode so if you have any questions you want me to research, please DM me on my Instagram @dontatmepodcast or via the contact form on my website.

Thanks for listening, bye!

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