Paintings of Licensed Characters

So I had this idea in mind to do a new and different body of work which may incorporate familiar characters such as those from Disney. So I started to do a little research regarding copyright and licensed characters.
As it turns out - it is NOT legal, at least as far as I can see, and yet I see them posted for sale even on this site. Am I missing something or are these people just crossing a line here? I realize we are not talking about getting rich and robbing blind the licensees with these few pieces but before I set out to do a complete body of work I would like some clarity.

Does this law also include a china doll that I found at Goodwill? How far does this copyright infringement go? What about painting a label on a familiar object like, say, an IPhone or McDonalds drink cup?
Is there a process to get permission to do this type of work?

It is a breach of copyright to paint characters like Disney’s. I do not know about the doll from the shop. It depends whether the doll represents a trademarked character. I tried to find you some Information and this site came up which seems to describe a process for obtaining permission from Disney. I don’t know if it is a reliable site, you would need to check this for yourself.

Thanks for that. Very informative. And while I think I still need to contact Pixar and Disney, I found this particularly interesting -

“Another way to legally use Disney characters could be to use them in what the law refers to as “transformative use.” Transformative use requires that you change, or transform, the character enough so that it is no longer a mere copy of the original. The resulting transformation is sometimes called a “derivative work.” For example, if a painter created an original oil painting of his family and included the Disney character Tinkerbell as a family member, his use of Tinkerbell would be fair use because of its commentary that the artist considers Tinkerbell a member of his family. The use of Tinkerbell in the painting could be could be characterized as a transformative use, and the painting could be called a derivative work.”

Thanks again Karen. :slight_smile:

Seems a similar issue with choirs and music… If you have a director or choir member who arranges a piece of music for the choir from a popular song, technically you should get permission. However, music publishers would be inundated and they would need lots more staff. So, as long as you aren’t marketing/selling your arrangement they tend to turn a blind eye.

With art, I suppose if you had a character as one item in a painting it would be o.k. What wouldn’t be good would be to have only licensed characters in the painting and produce and sell the picture on T-shirts, cards, etc.

It would also seem to be positive publicity.

Yes it is copyright infringement. That is the point of owning a copyright. We create something, a character, and the rights belong to the creator. No one else is legally allowed to make $ from it without permission.
That is it at its most basic.
We see examples of infringement but that does not mean it was legal. Too often chasing down those who break copyrights is expensive and time consuming.
Unless you are using them in the ‘derivative’ use sense I wouldn’t do it.
Consider how many posts have been done here on DPW from artists who had their work stolen digitally and someone else was making $ off their work.

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If you go to any art gallery you will probably see a Mickey Mouse somewhere in there! Artists are using so many copyright protected character and products. It’s not legal but art is different then mass producing it to sell. They usually don’t bother artists with it. The only thing I have seen is if you use it in a way were it hurts their image… one artist was panting lego characters in sexual poses and lego did not like it… but i think the artist was just asked to remove it from the internet.

I think you also have to very careful with sports teams, their logo’s, pictures of their players, uniforms, etc. I painted several of the Cincinnati Reds years ago for a charity auction and required permission from Major League Baseball.

Its fan art plenty of artist are doing it. I hardly doubt Disney would be worried about an artist making a few bucks off a painting of mickey mouse. Its not like you would selling it commercially and making millions. look on Ebay and you will find plenty of fan art.