Fan art or fanart is artwork that is based on a character, costume, item, or story that was created by someone other than the artist. The term, while it can apply to art done by fans of characters from books, is usually used to refer to art derived from visual media such as comics, movies or video games. In addition to traditional paintings and drawings, fan artists may also create web banners, avatars, or web-based animations, as well as photo collages, posters, and artistic representation of movie/show/book quotes.
Usually, it refers to fan labor artworks by amateur artists, or artists who are unpaid for their fan creations--so that, for example, professional comic adaptations of the Star Wars films would not be considered fanart while a version done by an unaffiliated fan would be. The distinctions here cannot always be finely drawn and the actual status of particular works can often fall into a gray area. It is a piece of work done by the fans on their imagination to the original one.
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The legal status of fan made art in America may be tricky due to the vagaries of the United States Copyright Act. Generally, the right to reproduce and display pieces of artwork is controlled by the original author or artist under 17 U.S.C. § 106. However, fan art using settings and characters from a previously created work could be considered a derivative work, which would place control of the copyright with the owner of that original work. Display and distribution of fan art that would be considered a derivative work would be unlawful.
However, American copyright law allows for the production, display and distribution of derivative works if they fall under a fair use exemption, 17 U.S.C. § 107. A court would look at all relevant facts and circumstances to determine whether a particular use qualifies as fair use; a multi-pronged rubric for this decision involves evaluating the amount and substantiality of the original appropriated, the transformative nature of the derivative work, whether the derivative work was done for educational or noncommercial use, and the economic effect that the derivative work imposes on the copyright holder's ability to make and exploit her own derivative works. None of these factors is alone dispositive.
American courts also typically grant broad protection to parody, and some fan art may fall into this category. This has not explicitly been adjudicated with respect to fan art, however. Moreover, while parody is typically afforded protection under § 107, a court must engage in a fact-intensive, case-specific inquiry for each work.
- Riendeau, Danielle (18 February 2009). "Fan Art Empowers Queer Women". After Ellen. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2009.
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