I’ve been studying a lot about trademark and copyright law lately, particularly those aspects of the law that have to do with parody and the use of copyrighted/trademarked characters. I’ve been considering doing a parody piece about a specific group of characters (you’ll know it if/when you see it), and I want to make sure I am righteous with respect to the law.

This path of righteousness has led me to some strange places, and I’m not sure whether my understanding has increased or decreased since I started looking into it.

I came across an interesting panel from SDCC on fanart, and part of it applies here. I thought I’d share with you here.

In addition to the parody work, I’ve considered bringing my work to comic conventions. I’ve heard from several other artists that the comic convention scene can be difficult for fantasy/gaming artists because everyone wants their favorite character done. People will often come to the booth with questions like “What comics have you drawn” and “Do you do Batman?”

The comic industry seems to be this quiet little microcosm where companies seem to have no problem allowing third party artists to draw their characters for profit. it seems that, in every other industry, producers come down hard on copyright and trademark infringement, but Marvel, DC, etc., turn a blind eye. The unfortunate thing is that we will never know if/when the comic companies will have a change of heart until it’s too late.

Will I do them in the future? Probably not anytime soon. While I have the models, and could easily produce 3D artwork of Batman, Superman, etc., I will likely avoid them until I can be certain that I’m within the law to produce it EVEN IF they change their minds.  It would likely take some type of open license (like the OGL, GPL, etc.) that can’t be later revoked before I would consider it. Until then, I will stick to the gaming conventions and making game characters (i.e. non-trademarked characters) for fans.

If you have any advice or links on the topic, contact me through the contact page; I’m always looking to learn more.