Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Can I Use Fan Art in a Music Video?

Dear Rich: My teen has drawn several pieces of "fan art," following a challenge to begin with a known character and re-draw it into something more original. I would like to use the drawings in a music video. Would I be violating anyone's copyright to do so? 
Unless your video achieves surprising virality ratios, the copyright owner is unlikely to learn of your use. If they do find it on YouTube, they may issue a take-down notice or they may choose not to pursue it (i.e., "Don't bite the hand that feeds you"). The law regarding fan art is vague, and if fanfiction is any example, lawsuits are filed only when the fan competes with the copyright owner. 
Derivative works and fair use. Fan art involves the creation of a derivative work and only the copyright owner can grant permission for making derivatives. At the same time, it's possible your music video may qualify as a fair use. Lacking any fan art caselaw the law remains muddled and we can't predict how a court would rule. However, if your music video becomes another Gangman Style, you're sure to hear from the lawyers. 

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