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Serious questions regarding Society 6

Sometimes I see people posting art regarding other pop media.


By this I mean I see people posting work consisting of movie icons, super heroes, and cartoons. Can we do that?


Isn't that infringing on some sort of copyright law by selling art of characters or people whose image doesn't actually belong to us?


Can someone explain to me how that works? What can we actually get away with? Where's the line?

Watch this
TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

Alice has plenty in her gallery and is consistently on the front page. I'm sure there are certain franchises that aren't so keen on stuff like this, but in general it seems like it's okay. I was thinking of doing some Adventure Time stuff and putting it up.

valorandvellum
valorandvellum profile pic Alumni

Yeah, there is a ton of "fan art" and tribute pieces on there. As long as you don't get any nasty letters in the mail, it should be fine.

Outlaw01

Using Alice as an example; is it ok to have Bane as art, and sell it?

Having Tom Hardy is a different story -- but the character Bane belongs to DC Comics.

Is it safe to assume that Alice has been able to have Bane in her gallery because DC just doesn't know?

If DC finds out Alice is selling prints of Bane -- is that the "whoa-shit" moment?

What if I drew Super-Man and put that print up for sale? Acceptable? Allowable? or a lawsuit waiting to happen?

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

well she's awesome skillswise, but I would not dare do what she is doing. she has a couple Little Mermaid things in there that are pretty much scenes lifted straight from the film.

I don't know if they'll ever chase her for it, but I don't think it's ok copyrightswise.

sweet n sour
sweet n sour profile pic Alumni

making fan art is cool but selling your fan art definitely isn't cool in my opinion, it's not black and white and there will always be exceptions (satire, parody, pastiche etc) but for the most part it's theft if it's done without consent, besides if you really are a fan why would you want to steal off the people whos work you love.

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Alumni

well she's awesome skillswise

this^

it's not like these people are making "pop culture" references to be a cheating hack and just make big bucks because its pop culture. theres actually skill involved to make good art. like, if you or anyone were to do a bunch of batman prints, that wouldnt guarantee you to sell a shit ton of prints.

skills, a good reputation, and promotion can do that

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Alumni

but most importantly SKILLS

TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

I think that if it's very stylized and not something you'd be able to find/purchase otherwise, why not? If they don't want you doing it they'll let you know.

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

I'd still think that if Disney caught you selling their merch, like not inspired by but pretty much lifted straight from their movies, they would not be too happy for you, no matter your skill level.

It's definitely better than someone doing a crappy copy-paste job, but legally I'd say it's just as wrong.

but then copyright laws are bloody complex and I definitely don't pretend to be any expert on the matter. but as I said, I wouldn't try it.

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Alumni

besides if you really are a fan why would you want to steal off the people whos work you love.

what lmao

JonBurgessDesign

OK so she should skillfully do something original. I don't like her style at all personally but obviously many people do. . . so they would buy it ?

TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

Well, this isn't about Alice, I was just using her as an example. There are plenty of other people on there that do fan art, she's just one of the better known ones.

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

no of course, the question globally applies to everyone. I don't think copyright is about how skillfully you make the copies, but rather about the principle of making money off a character or concept that someone else came up with and thus owns.

alice stands out because she is plain downright awesome. I'd sell three quarters of my soul for one tenth of her skill.

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Alumni

what kind of bizarre idealistic art world do you think we live in that nobody can sell artwork based on a book or a movie

TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

If you can get away with it though, and you do it well... PROFIT.

Look at Teefury, they only do shirts with pop culture references. So really, where do you draw the line?

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

no, of course you can base your pieces on stuff. I mean tons of threadless prints are based on stuff, dr who and mario and everything.

but doing your own version of a scene straight from a cartoon without changing almost anything seems risky to me. I dunno, I really don't want to pick on anyone or sound aggressive. I just always thought that kinda stuff was against copyright.

threadless had so many awesome star wars tees that got pulled for copyright, when they weren't anywhere near so close to anything from the original films - I thought tons of them were really original and truly just inspired by a franchise, as opposed to infringing against it. but obviously Lucas thought otherwise.

I mean didn't the keyboard cat dude copyright his cat and thus three keyboard cat moon got pulled?

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

but yeah, I also agree that you could say it's cool to keep doing it until someone asks you to stop. Not like the giant corporations are gonna miss out on anything because you're selling fan art that they wouldn't make/sell anyway.

toopersent
toopersent profile pic Alumni

I've often pondered this. You can't possibly go to S6 and NOT see something that looks like copyright infringement, simply because there are some many pop-culture references. Its a fine line though, because parody is okay.

toopersent
toopersent profile pic Alumni

Or you could just read the Ts & Cs...

Society6 does not manually screen Content before it is displayed on the website so occasionally members may inadvertently or deliberately submit and display content that breaches this Agreement. Inappropriate Content includes, but is not limited to, Content that infringes the copyright or other intellectual property rights of any person or company, or that defames or vilifies any person, people, races, religion or religious group, is obscene, pornographic, indecent, harassing, threatening, harmful, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, abusive, inflammatory or otherwise objectionable.

you and your Content do not and will not infringe the intellectual property rights or other rights of any person or entity, including copyright, moral rights, trade mark, patent or right of privacy;

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

heh, there's that common gap between theory and practice.

it's sort of like youtube forbids copyrighted concept, and sort of half-assedly removes some of it, but craploads of it still stand and will stand forever because nobody's got the manpower or the incentive to go through everything and weed it out when the harm that comes to copyright owners is probably minimal.

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

*content.

damn I'm sloppy tonight.

digsy
digsy profile pic Alumni

I got to say, I'm mostly ok with what Alice is doing (using her as an example again) when you're talking about artistic characters already (i.e the little mermaid stuff) then yeah, it's a grey line depending on how much you imitate it. With real life people including when they're playing a character line Bane or Loki, I really don't have a problem with it at all. Should she not be allowed to paint (absolutely droolingly gorgeous) pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch because he happens to be dressed as Sherlock Holmes? That seems a bit silly

Often I think how much copyright is enforced depends on who's enforcing it and how big the other person is e.g. is it worth the effort and cost as a small independent artist to take on Lucas Film, even if you may not be in the wrong - probably not. The same goes for a company that, even at Threadless' size, could probably do without the fight.

toopersent
toopersent profile pic Alumni

Stuff like this...its pretty border-line. I'm not even sure I know how I feel about it....

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

yeah the actors I think are fine, I don't think you can copyright a person? And even if you could it would be dumb. I just dunno about the ariel/ spirited away stuff.

opifan64
opifan64 profile pic Alumni

Society6 periodically pulls a bunch of stuff when they get a cease and desist letter. They recently took down a bunch of batman designs. One of their best-selling prints was a drawing of cat woman, which wasn't even fan art but a re-imagining of the character (though similar to the michelle phiffer one). They also pulled some DC characters (even a manatee with superman's hair and a cape) and some star wars stuff last year (there's still a lot up though). I guess if you want to be cynical about it you can make your money while you can but eventually it will probably be pulled. I think it's highly unlikely that they'll bother suing you personally.

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

I hate the fact that copyright has such muddled lines and there is no real clear instruction on what is ok and what isn't. that's why I just stay away from anything even remotely resembling it, just to be on the safe side.

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

ahahah see, in my world a manatee with superman's hair should be an independent art piece and not liable to any copyright law.

Outlaw01

Ok, thanks guys.

Skill doesn't play into this discussion at all. There are tons of varying styles and skill levels of those who draw Batman -- but to sell any of them is what we're discussing.

valorandvellum
valorandvellum profile pic Alumni

I can't speak for everyone else (e.g. Alice), but I can speak for some of the tribute pieces I've done for gallery shows lately. There are circumstances where companies/galleries come into agreement with big production companies (e.g. Disney) and it allows their artists to have permission to use characters/scenes/etc. from movies or TV shows. Another example of this would be some of the loves contests that Threadless has had.

If you're just creating fan art on your own, then you should know the risks. But if you're doing something for a tribute show at a gallery or for the loves comps here, then you're most likely safe.

againstbound
againstbound profile pic Alumni

jeffreyg on Sep 26 '12 at 2:38pm well she's awesome skillswise

this^

it's not like these people are making "pop culture" references to be a cheating hack and just make big bucks because its pop culture. theres actually skill involved to make good art. like, if you or anyone were to do a bunch of batman prints, that wouldnt guarantee you to sell a shit ton of prints.

That's one of the most commonly misguided arguments I have seen in this discussion (not this particular discussion but copyright stuff in general).

It's not like skilled artists go out of their way to make pop references in their style, I mean, it's their style after all, it's the way they're used to doing things, the way they're comfortable with, it's just how they do their shit.

And if they already got the skills they can very well do other stuff without going for star wars, batman, whatever. Don't you think? So yes I do think that making money easier is at least part of doing art off characters people already love.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni

yeah the actors I think are fine, I don't think you can copyright a person?

Actually, there are such things as Right Of Publicity laws. Especially in California where S6 is located. Caricature artist Tom Richmond has written about the subject.

The Lucasfilm and DC cases are about might making right. Even if their case wouldn't hold water, going to court is expensive. The big companies can afford to do that so they can bully smaller companies and individual artists how they want.

JonBurgessDesign

I agree with againstbound - selling images of famous people who's fame you had no part in creating and using reference pics you didn't take is making money off the back of someone else's work to some extent. Why not paint your next door neighbour? Coz nobody would buy it obviously. There is sense in which a celebrity becomes public property and their image being used does underline their iconic status and perpetuates their fame. But by that time the bandwagon is rolling. . .

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

Morkki, I'm absolutely with you on that. But on the other hand, it does sometimes make me wonder, how difficult would it be for all of us to still be successful artists if we just stopped using famous people/ stuff for subjects? Would it really be so bad to come up with your own stuff? People sometimes make it feel like companies enforcing copyright are being evil, but I've so often wished that there was a 'pop culture sub purge' button on Threadless that would just immediately remove from my sight all the marios and pacmen.

Yes, coming up with cool and impressive subject matter without piggy-backing on memes, cults and pop culture is tough. Impossible? Not by a long shot. I wish we'd strive more in that direction.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni

Ha, I wish it was easy to use pop references. I'm not at all against using pop culture, to me it's just one subject among others. But I'm simply not so much inspired by movies, TV shows, cartoons or comics that I would come up with designs related to them. I'm sure there are people who do pop art because it's popular but many do it just because they simply love the subject matter.

Goldendust

This is a very interesting discussion. It's a hard call to make, because some shows openly embrace fan art eg. Adventure Time and others try to stamp out everything vaguely related to their brand eg. Lucasfilm.

Making money straight off the back of someone else's brand, with nothing being given back is pretty rude. But sometimes it goes both ways... I'd have no idea that Sherlock was even a TV series if not for the entirety of tumblr making fanart for it. It's almost an unofficial reciprocal deal in some ways - artists drawing attention to a show by creating artwork based on it in their own style.

I'm not sure how I feel about the morality and legality of it all, but I do wish that companies were more open to the idea of working with this stuff rather than against it. When I see companies officially approaching artists like Sam Spratt and Olly Moss it definitely makes me smile just a little.

celandinestern
celandinestern profile pic Alumni

cool article, I was just discussing that topic with Husband yesterday. I think a lot of companies may find if they crunched the numbers that the fan art/ copyright infringement is doing them more good than harm.

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