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Unread 01-22-2009, 09:45 PM   #1
TrombonePrincess
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Smile Fan-Made Items, Artist's Alley, and Legal Issues: Any info?

I'm curious about how fanmade stuff works legally.

Hi everyone! ^_^ I would like to get as much information as possible on this topic, because I am thoroughly mystified by it.

In Artist's Alley at most cons, there are booths where people can sell their artwork of licensed characters from anime and games. There are also auctions for artwork and fanmade items like models/figurines they've made to celebrate their fandom. People can sell everything and anything online that they make too, costumes, cosplay props, replicas, the list is infinitely long. So my question is, how do companies with these licensed characters see this marketplace of fanmade items? I made a guess not based on much information, but perhaps you can see where I'm coming from.

This is my main guess: fanmade items can be sold for money because they are unique--the companies that own the characters have not licensed the types of products that people make from home, and therefore do not feel threatened by them. They know that these items can't be mass produced on a large scale, and that most of these creative fans will not make a significant amount of money off of their characters.

But what if they did? What if someone has a lucrative business online selling replicas and makes a living doing it? And does the law draw the line at an online storefront? What if someone wanted to create a physical store, with display windows and everything, using items made to look like licensed characters? I haven't seen anything like this, as stores usually sell licensed anime items.

So I'm curious as to how the "fanmade stuff" industry works, as in, is it underground, or do authorities just see it as nonthreatening? I know for sure that the anime industry condemns bootlegs and encourages fans to buy licensed DVDs and games from reputable sources so they can be paid for their hard work. But these are items that result from copying data-nothing is said about copying art style or character likenesses.

I'm not trying to condemn fanmade items, because I absolutely LOVE the fact that you can celebrate fandom this way, and I myself have made things and sold them to other people. These types of items are so unique and bring people joy. What I want to know is how far I can go with that without getting into trouble legally.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to any insight I receive. Have an awesome day
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Unread 01-22-2009, 10:14 PM   #2
Mangochutney
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A good general guideline is that you stop flying under the radar when you are making enough money from your goods to start paying taxes on that income. However.

What are you planning to do? The rest of this post is window dressing--describe your project and the resources you're bringing to bear on it, or your question can't be answered accurately.
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Unread 01-22-2009, 10:43 PM   #3
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For example, say I wanted to start a manga cafe, selling cookies and cakes shaped to look exactly like certain characters. Japan has these cafes, and they pay their workers to dress up as licensed characters. Would this be allowable? Could you use the names of these characters on the menu, or would you need to get permissions to use any names and likenesses in order to continually make a profit off of their creativity? Here in America, those types of laws are very strict concerning copyright and characters.
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Unread 01-22-2009, 10:47 PM   #4
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... I know Disney has issues with it... Anime North has had to ban disney items from the Artist Alley because they threatened to sue or something.. (No idea weather this applies to Kingdom Hearts)
Persocom ears (From Chobits) are not allowed either, because the ears themselves are licensed...

.. But if you want to turn it into a business, rather than just a hobby, you probably need permission from the creators..
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Unread 01-22-2009, 10:58 PM   #5
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This is a big issue and a wishy-washy one as well. Some conventions are perfectly fine with the sale of any fan art items while others limit the types of fanart you can do, or ban it all together. I've always been wary about selling my Anime based items anywhere but at a con, though I know a lot of people do sell them online. Companies don't seem to have as big of an issue with costumes and cosplay merchandise, because plenty of people do cosplay commissions.

As far as starting an actual business based off of licensed characters, you could have some legal issues. It sounds like such a fun idea though, so you should definitely look into it!
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Unread 01-22-2009, 11:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasy_C. View Post
Companies don't seem to have as big of an issue with costumes and cosplay merchandise, because plenty of people do cosplay commissions.
... It's easy enough to get around the commissions thing legally. ^^;; ... When making costumes for others, I make it very clear that I am not selling a character.. I'm selling my time, skill, and experience.
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Unread 01-23-2009, 09:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrombonePrincess View Post
For example, say I wanted to start a manga cafe, selling cookies and cakes shaped to look exactly like certain characters. Japan has these cafes, and they pay their workers to dress up as licensed characters. Would this be allowable? Could you use the names of these characters on the menu, or would you need to get permissions to use any names and likenesses in order to continually make a profit off of their creativity? Here in America, those types of laws are very strict concerning copyright and characters.
If you're starting a business, you MIGHT be able to get away with parodies, but using the names and likenesses of characters that you don't hold the copyright for is a big no-no here in the States.

If you're serious about this, speak to a professional copyright or trademark lawyer for advice. Educate yourself, and make your decisions about this based on facts and real US law, not on advice from random folks on the internet - most of us have no clue what we're talking about, and a LOT of people will argue convincingly that illegal things are okay because they think they should be, or try to tell you about loopholes they may or may not know anything about. None of this will help you if you land in court. A lawyer will. Again, if you're serious about starting a business, get some real, professional input.

Last edited by LizardMandy : 01-23-2009 at 09:27 AM.
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Unread 01-25-2009, 08:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrombonePrincess View Post
Here in America, those types of laws are very strict concerning copyright and characters.
Yes, they are, and they're also very complex. If you're planning on doing anything larger scale than selling a few tchotchkes at an artist's alley, you need to talk to a lawyer. This is beyond the scope of this board.
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Unread 06-18-2009, 03:27 PM   #9
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