Can You Sell a Painting of a Famous Character?

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Can You Sell a Painting of a Famous Character
Image from Unsplash( Free)

Unless the copyright owner gives specific permission, derivative art derived from copyrighted characters cannot be sold.

🌐 Checkout out our Latest and in-depth blog about-🌐The Art of Selling Art: A Guide to sell digital art and make money as a newbie Artist

Is it necessary to get a license as an artist in order to sell artwork portraying copyrighted characters?

The only exception is if you have received specific permission from the copyright owners to sell derivative artworks based on copyrighted characters, in which case you may sell such artwork.

Is it possible to sell illustrations of cartoon characters?
This is something that you are not permitted to do at this time.

The makers of the cartoon character have trademarked and/or copyrighted the cartoon character. 

Any depiction of property is a violation of the rights of the property owner.

If a painting is licensed by the owner of the copyright, it may be considered a derivative work and hence a violation of the copyright.

Spiderman,  Mickey Mouse, Snow-white, and Aladin are a bunch few of the cartoon characters that we love and enjoy watching them.

Paintings Or Artwork of any famous characters created by other artists are not allowed to be sold under any circumstances. In a Nutshell you can create artwork but cant sell them.

How are these famous Frictional  Characters protected?

Most of these fictional characters like Spiderman, Peter pan, Disney Characters, superheroes etc are shielded from infringement by copyright, trademark, and unfair competition laws. 

The present state of affairs in several courts has prompted one observer to infer that these diverse bodies of law have converged into a new body of law formed only to protect personalities. 

Convergence theories exist in the literature, although they are less clear-cut than in graphic characters.

A fictional character has the same fundamental features as a graphic character: the character has a name, physical appearance, and attitude or character traits that distinguish it from other people’s creations. 

Characters in fiction are formed in readers’ minds, whereas characters in comics are created in the reader’s imagination. 

This distinction explains why the physical appearance of a fictional character is entirely up to readers’ imaginations. 

Contrast this with characters shown in images, where the reader can see the character’s looks and personalities. 

When comparing the breadth of protection available for fictional characters and graphic characters, there is an obvious distinction, but it is highly important to note. 

So why is it so difficult to recognize a fictional character? It’s because no two brains can view a character in the same way unless they’ve seen a visual representation of that figure. 

It’s possible that a fictional figure may be shown in a significantly different way in a subsequent graphical representation than in the original word depiction( Source)

What is Fan art? We see a lot of them around-Is that Theft.

It’s common for artists to draw inspiration from their favorite fictional characters in novels, movies, and television programs. Fan art” is a common term for new works that pay tribute to the original figures.

However, there are some that depict the characters in a lighthearted way, such as youngsters who curse or engage in sex acts that don’t fit their formal roles.

Mashups of iconic emblems from two separate fictional universes are becoming more common in the art world. 

Making Fan art is not illegal, However selling one for profit is Considered illegal.

My recommendation would be to contact the character’s license owner for further information. 

If you make a version of Snow White/Aladin, Disney and any other film business that has done a version of  Elsa may automatically issue you a DMCA because they believe you are infringing on their character trademark or license. 

This is something Disney does a lot of! Take, for example, the character of Winnie the Pooh.

Even if the original paintings by E.H.Shepherd are probably no longer protected by copyright.

However,  Disney will slap a DMCA on you if you do anything even vaguely related to Winnie the Pooh!!

What a strange coincidence!!

Well, yes there are many sites that blatantly exploit selling Disney merchandise, and Disney does have a hot tips hotline email for notifying their legal department, but the wonderful thing about the DMCA laws is that User Privacy is protected, and companies can operate under the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, which are outlined in the law. 

These sites will only remove the infringing works if the creators are prepared to comply with the rules. 

Is it against the law to sell fan art?

Is it unlawful to commission fan art of characters who are protected by intellectual property rights?

Creating fan art for profit or for pleasure that includes any copyrighted character or the use of a trademark in a description or title without the prior written agreement of the copyright owner is prohibited. 

However, just displaying or creating fan art is not illegal, and selling fan art is not.

It is a bit weird right? Then you may thank the law of intellectual property.

In both art and law, there are several ways to interpret the meaning of a piece of work and take their chances in the event that they are ever persecuted by the copyright owner for creating unlawful fan art( Source)

Let’s say, for example, The artwork you made for my young daughter ( she loves Elsa from FROZEN)  features a popular cartoon character.

Since you created them and your daughter loved it – do you think you may sell them to someone else? For-profit, you’d want to put them up for sale on markets like eBay and Etsy.

The answer is NO you cannot sell it. However, you can create and gift it to your daughter.

So, when such a basic question comes up, it opens the door to a wide range of legal areas, such as contract law, Trademark law, and intellectual property law and so on..

Also, privacy legislation (under certain circumstances) and rights of publicity (under certain circumstances)

As far as copyright law is concerned, only works in which a fictitious character is depicted may be protected. Because many fictional characters have taken on a life of their own, copyright law has a tough time preventing them from being used without permission.

This kind of work is referred to as “derivative” under copyright law since it combines components from another work and is based on that other work (derived from). 

With the exception of situations in which an original work is no longer protected by copyright (for example, when the original work is so old that the copyright has expired or in which the original work is a government production), unauthorized derivative works are deemed copyright infringers.

What is Fair use?

Artists often say that their “fair use” character art is permitted, and this is something that is agreeable.

Despite its frequent mention, the concept of “fair use” is often misunderstood by the general public. “Fair use” does not necessarily imply what we think of as “fair” in the classic sense of the word

Consider the situation of character art that is based on someone else’s work. 

As long as the artist isn’t claiming to have invented the characters, it’s OK for them to create this sort of artwork. 

Some argue that since they have become cultural icons, it is OK to use their likenesses because they are so well-known. 

Many individuals believe that as long as the use of well-known figures is not “commercial in character,” it is acceptable( Source).

Check out the Myths of Fair use here

When is it legal to sell fan art?

Technically: Until the copyright expires, though.

The producer and/or creator of the work owns the copyright to the characters, the location, and the tale. 

Since you don’t own the copyright, you can’t make or sell derivative works until you acquire the right to do so.

In Reality: It’s Never Legal to Sell Fan-Art

There is currently no legal method to sell fan art since copyright law states that the copyright belongs to the creator for the duration of the author’s life and then for an additional 120 years after the author’s death. 

In order to save Mickey Mouse /Elsa’s copyright, Disney has lobbied Congress to prolong the copyright expiration date. 

Practically: It Depends on the Firms

Large firms like Disney or Pixel would never spend in pursuing and suing tiny content producers since there is a lot of grey area surrounding fair use and the company has a lot to lose but not much to gain.

No one cares if someone asks someone to paint certain characters from a movie’s one-off artwork. Because of this, they are already lawful.

Even if you’re not famous, a lengthy, drawn-out, unpleasant, costly lawsuit might be yours if you publicly disparage their work and constitute real harm to their reputation.

If you start a commercial enterprise selling their work, they may decide to interfere; see above for what you may anticipate from this.

How can you protect your Imaginary character( If you have created any of your own)

INSIGHTFUL TIPS: For the sake of safeguarding your imaginary characters, here are the tips( Source)

  • The imaginary character’s underlying work should be copyrighted.
  • If you want to protect the name or expression of your fictitious character by trademarking them, you may do so.
  • Create and utilize a visual depiction of the imaginary character, and register the copyright and trademark for that character’s visual representation.

If you want to sell handcrafted things with Disney themes on Etsy or Amazon, would it be considered copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement may or may not be a problem if a copyrighted piece inspires a new work of art. 

For example, you take a 2d pic as Inspiration and make it a 3d Sculpt using Nomad Sculpt or Forager App. This becomes a completely new art, you are not selling the original art. In such cases, it may be  allowed to sell your art( Depending on the copyright)

In order to determine whether you’ve infringed someone else’s copyright, you’ll need to know how much of the original work you’re utilizing, and how much creativity and originality you’re putting into your own work.

And whether or not your use of the original work undermines the value of the original work.

If there is more of Disney’s creative effort in the products you make than there is in your own, which says to me that there is a lot more of the Disney character than there is in your own.

So, if you were to do so, you would be violating copyright law by profiting from their work without paying them for it.

It’s better to consult a copyright attorney rather than rely on the advice of others in the web world.

Remember, Disney is very protective of its copyrights and will take legal action against you if they suspect you of violating them in any way.

About the Author:

Manny Acharya is the co-founder of Artmellows. Your go-to place for Design, Digital Art, Digital sculpting, Photography, Design Tools and gears Info, and Product Reviews. Manny is a Digital Artist, 3D Sculpt Designer, Ardent Photography, Drone flying Enthusiast, and tech Lover. He supercharges Digital Art and design by crafting memorable 3D sculptures & 2D Design and art. Learn more About Manny:

PS: Manny has created a Beginner Friedly ebook to Learn the Nomad 3D Sculpt App. Know More about the eBook. Know more about Manny

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