I'm a UK-based aspiring artist who is completely new to all aspects of copyright law, so forgive me if I sound a iittle clueless or stupid.
I'm an avid gamer and artist, and I've always made a habit of including characters and locations from various forms of media: video games, films, TV shows, etc. Up until now this has only been for my own personal enjoyment, but I've been touching upon the idea of selling my art online as an extra source of income, as I've seen countless other members of the gaming community do also.
Because of the thousands upon thousands of artists online who sell works featuring other companies' characters and names and designs, I assumed that copyright law was a bit lax otherwise there wouldn't be so many independent artists making a profit off of these copyrighted IP. However a quick consultation on an artist's forum informed me that I do in fact need a licence to sell works featuring companies' IP or risk being done for infringement.
I reached out to Nintendo, one of the companies whose games I often look to for artistic inspiration, and they quickly sent me a stock answer which didn't seem to shed much light on the matter:
I understand that for the most part they have to deny requests without question, but the fifth and sixth paragraphs intriguingly seem to indicate to some wriggle space on the matter. So my questions:Thank you very much for your email.
Unfortunately, we are very sorry to inform you, that we are not able to grant your request to use Nintendo properties.
As we receive thousands of requests of this nature on a daily basis, we regret that we do not have sufficient resources to review them all. Therefore, our general policy is to decline any queries, requesting permission for the use of Nintendo properties.
Although we are not able to grant permission, the use of Nintendo's properties without formal permission by Nintendo, may still be allowed under the relevant laws of the particular jurisdiction involved.
We would therefore encourage you to seek the opinion of your own legal counsel, if you have any questions about whether your particular proposed use is permitted without Nintendo's authorization.
Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused on this matter and if you have any further questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Your Nintendo UK Team
Am I allowed to use characters, designs and names from companies such as Nintendo in my artwork and sell it online? If not, then how are thousands of artists online getting away with doing precisely this? And what are the ramifications, if any of going ahead with selling this type of art which infringes copyright?
Just to clarify: my art isn't a direct copy or a reproduction of existing works - they are for all intents and purposes, original pieces of art which also feature recognisable locations and characters from popular culture and also more prominently, the names of locations and also recognisable logos used in the fictional universes I reference (can't post urls but if you google image Justin Van Genderen, that's kinda similar to what I do).
Some help on the matter would be greatly appreciated.