Fan art is artwork that is based on an existing intellectual property. This can include characters, logos, and other designs from books, movies, television shows, and more. While fan art is not always legal to sell, there are some cases where it is allowed. In this blog post, we will discuss the legality of selling fan art on Etsy. We will also provide some tips for making sure your artwork falls within the bounds of the law.
What is fan art?
Fan art is artwork created by fans of a particular work, character, or series. Fans usually create fan art as a way to show their love and appreciation for the original work, as well as to share their own creative interpretation with other fans.
However, because fan art often uses copyrighted material, there is a risk that selling fan art could be considered copyright infringement. 
What are copyrights and trademarks?
Copyrights and trademarks are two different types of intellectual property law.
Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as books, movies, and songs. Trademarks protect words, phrases, logos, and other symbols that identify a brand or product.
When it comes to fan art, copyrights are usually more relevant than trademarks. This is because fan art is typically based on copyrighted characters or other elements from a work, rather than using the trademarked name or logo of the work itself. 
What is Etsy’s Copyright Policy?
Etsy’s Copyright Policy prohibits the sale of any item that infringes on the copyright or trademark of another person or company. This means that fan art that violates copyright law cannot be sold on Etsy.
However, there are some specific exceptions to the rule where selling fan art is allowed. For example, if the fan art is considered to be a parody or satire, it may fall under free speech laws and therefore be protected. Some fan art is protected by the “fair use” doctrine, which allows people to use copyrighted material for specific reasons like criticizing it, commenting on it, reporting news about it, teaching courses on it, or researching it.
To avoid being shut down by Etsy or facing legal action from the copyright holder, it’s important to make sure that your fan art is either protected by free speech laws or falls under the fair use doctrine. 
The Legality of Selling Fan Art on Etsy
Etsy is a marketplace where people can sell handmade or vintage items, as well as art and craft supplies. It has become increasingly popular in recent years as a place to buy and sell unique items. However, some controversy has arisen over the selling of fan art on Etsy.
The legality of selling fan art is often a gray area. Copyright law protects original works of authorship, but it does not necessarily protect all derivative works. In order to be protected by copyright, a work must be original and show a minimal amount of creativity. For example, a simple line drawing would not be protected, but a painting that includes elements of the drawing would be protected.
Derivative works are those that are based on or derived from another work. Fan art is typically a derivative work, as it is based on characters or settings from a book, movie, tv show, etc. Copyright law does not protect ideas, but it does protect the expression of those ideas. So, if you create a piece of fan art that is based on someone else’s copyrighted work, you are infringing on their copyright.
However, there are some circumstances under which selling fan art may be considered fair use. Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement that allows the use of copyrighted material in certain limited circumstances. Courts will asses if something is fair use by taking into account aspects like the reason for the use, what was used (copyrighted material), how much of it was used, and if the market value has been impacted.
How do I get a license to sell fan art?
The best way to avoid infringing on someone’s copyright is to get a license from the copyright holder. A license is a permission from the owner of a copyrighted work to use that work in a particular way. If you want to sell fan art, you will need to obtain a license from the copyright holder of the work that your fan art is based on.
Licenses can be obtained in a number of ways. The easiest way is to contact the copyright holder directly and ask for permission. Many large companies have procedures in place for licensing fan art, so this may be as simple as filling out a form or submitting your artwork for approval.
Another option is to look for websites or galleries that specialize in selling licensed fan art. These websites usually have agreements in place with the copyright holders, so you can be sure that the fan art you are buying is legal.
Lastly, you could try to find artwork that is in the public domain. Works in the public domain are those that are not protected by copyright and can be used freely. However, it can be difficult to determine whether or not a work is in the public domain, so this option should only be used as a last resort. If you are unsure about the legality of selling fan art, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and get a license from the copyright holder. 
What happens on Etsy if someone files a claim against you?
Etsy takes copyright infringement claims seriously. If you receive a notice that someone has filed a claim against you, Etsy will remove the infringing material from your shop and may take further action, such as suspending or terminating your account.
If you believe that the material in question is not infringing on anyone’s copyright, you can file a counter-notice with Etsy. Etsy will then review the situation and make a determination about whether or not to reinstate the material.
It’s important to note that Etsy is not a court of law, and it cannot make a definitive ruling on whether or not something is infringing. However, if Etsy finds that there is a strong possibility of infringement, it will take action to protect the rights of the copyright holder.
How much to change to avoid copyright infringement?
If you’re looking to create fan art that you can sell on Etsy, it’s important to understand copyright law and how it applies to your work. Copyright law protects an artist’s expression of their ideas, so if you’re selling artwork that is based on another copyrighted work, you could be infringing on the original artist’s copyright.
However, there is a concept in copyright law called “fair use” which allows for the use of copyrighted material for certain purposes, such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Whether or not your fan art is considered fair use will depend on a number of factors, including how much of the original work you’ve used and what purpose your fan art serves. If you’re creating fan art that is transformative, meaning it adds something new and different to the original work, you’re more likely to be considered fair use.
It’s also important to note that copyright law only applies to the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. So if you’re creating completely original artwork that is inspired by another work but not based on it, you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement.
What else can Etsy sellers not sell without a license and/or permission?
Here are a few other things that Etsy sellers cannot sell without a license and/or permission. These include:
- Photographs of people without their permission
- Trademarks or logos without the permission of the trademark holder
- Nudity or sexually explicit material
Some of these may seem obvious, but it’s important to be aware of all the restrictions before selling on Etsy.
Myths for Selling Fan Art
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about copyright law, and this can make it difficult to understand what you can and cannot do with your fan art. Here are a few common myths about selling fan art on Etsy:
- I can sell fan art if I change the design slightly
- I can sell fan art if I’m not making any money from it
- I can sell fan art as long as I don’t use the original artist’s name
None of these are true! Copyright law protects an artist’s expression of their ideas, so even if you make a few changes to the design, you could still be infringing on the original artist’s copyright. And although you might not be making any money from your fan art, you could still be liable for damages if you’re found to be infringing on someone’s copyright. Finally, using the original artist’s name is not a defense against copyright infringement.
Keywords for Fan Art on Etsy
When selling fan art on Etsy, it’s important to use the right keywords so that potential buyers can easily find your listings. Some good keywords to use include “fan art,” “inspired by,” and “original design.” Using these keywords will help potential buyers understand what they’re looking at and make it more likely that they’ll find your listing.
As always, be sure to read Etsy’s guidelines carefully before listing any fan art for sale. By being mindful and responsible, you can steer clear of any potential legal issues involved in selling on Etsy.
Tips and Tricks for Selling Fan Art on Etsy
Now that you know a bit more about the legalities involved in selling fan art on Etsy, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started:
- Do your research! Be sure to familiarize yourself with copyright law and Etsy’s guidelines before listing any fan art for sale
- When in doubt, ask for permission. If you’re ever unsure about whether or not something is allowed, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and get permission from the copyright holder
- Use keywords wisely. When listing fan art on Etsy, be sure to use keywords that accurately describe your items. This will help potential buyers find your listings more easily
- Be responsible and mindful. By being aware of the potential legal issues involved in selling fan art, you can avoid any problems and sell responsibly on Etsy
By following these tips, you can sell fan art on Etsy without running into any legal trouble. With a little bit of care and diligence, you can safely and legally sell your fan art creations.
Can I sell fan art on Etsy by crediting the original creator?
Yes! If you’re selling fan art on Etsy, you can absolutely credit the original creator in your listing. In fact, we encourage it! Crediting the original creator is a great way to show respect for their work and to let potential buyers know that your listing is inspired by someone else’s artwork.
Will Fair Use protect me if I change the original work while creating Fan Art?
No. Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement, but it only applies in very specific circumstances. If you’re creating fan art, it’s unlikely that your work will fall under the fair use exception, so you should get permission from the copyright holder before using or selling it.
What if Etsy Seller repeats Infringement?
If you repeatedly infringe on someone’s copyright, you could be subject to damages, including statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. In other words, if you keep infringing on someone’s copyright, you could end up owing a lot of money in court. So it’s important to be mindful of the legalities involved in selling fan art on Etsy and to avoid any potential infringement.
Useful Video: Can you LEGALLY sell fan art on Etsy
If you’re thinking about selling fan art on Etsy, you might be wondering if it’s legal. The answer is a little complicated, but the short answer is yes, you can sell fan art on Etsy as long as you follow some simple guidelines. First, make sure that the copyrighted material you’re using is either in the public domain or you have permission from the copyright holder to use it. Second, don’t create anything that could be confused with official merchandise from the original work. And finally, don’t use any copyrighted materials in your listing photos. Following these simple guidelines will help ensure that you stay within the bounds of the law and avoid any problems down the road.