Ever since Netflix released The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance in August this year, I'll admit it’s evoked the fanboy in me. For those of you who haven’t immersed yourselves in the fantastic world of Thra yet, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is Netflix’s TV adaptation of Jim Henson’s 1982 puppet animated fantasy adventure film of the same name, The Dark Crystal.
I’ve been hooked since episode 1 and it’s truly an epic adventure in all aspects, including the puppet characters, setting, costumes and design. The beautiful symbols present in the show inspired me to create some pieces of the Gelfling Clans. Please note these are not for sale and form part of my own personal jewellery collection only.
Whilst creating these pieces, the whole process led me to think about how copyright laws apply to fan art. I decided to do some research and share some of my findings.
The subculture of fandom and cosplay are not new concepts – it is said to have its roots in the1930s. It has, however, had a rise in popularity over the last few decades. Cosplay has become a lifestyle for a lot of participants, with many pop culture conventions such as Supanova and Oz Comic-Con being a space for fandoms to connect and share their creativity. Many cosplayers either make their own costumes or purchase/source their outfit.This leads to the question of - when do copyright laws apply to people who create art or costumes based on inspiration from an already existing entity?
I did some of my own research and found a wealth of information all over the interweb. If you’re interested in reading more about this, I’ll leave some links at the bottom of this post. For now I’ll just summarise the key points that I’ve discovered about copyright laws when it comes to producing inspired artwork.
When do copyright laws apply to people who create art or costumes based on inspiration from an already existing entity?
1. It is illegal to sell or commercialise any kind of derivative fan art without any explicit consent or rights from the original creator. In short, if you didn’t come up with the original idea, don’t sell it or you will be sued. It doesn’t matter if it is just your small handmade side-hustle, if you don’t have the rights to sell official merchandise, don’t do it.
2. It is fine to be inspired and produce fan art, and to show it to your fans. However it is a good idea to always write a disclaimer to advise that your art is in no way endorsed or connected with the original creators.
3. For karma's sake, exercise common sense and respect for the original creators. If you create art because you are inspired by an existing production, show your appreciation by respecting the integrity of the production and its creators.
As mentioned earlier, here’s some resources for further reading. Happy creating!