Is selling Fan Art illegal? Should you create Fan Art as an artist?
If you are an artist you might have seen a lot of other artists make Fan Arts and even sell them. How does it work, do they have rights to do this, is this even legal? What should I do? Well, let's talk about Fan Art in this article and clear things out.
Selling Fan Art is illegal
Selling Fan Art is illegal. It is copyright infringement, whether being sold or not, by the way. However, copyright is civil in nature, not criminal: the rights holder has to request a court to enforce the law. It does not matter that you infringe on the copyright of The Pokemon Company if they choose not to sue you. And it is most unlikely to happen, to be honest.
That was the theory, now let's see the reality.
The Fan Art Market
Most companies have better things to do than to generate bad press by suing small-time artists. Additionally, The sale and distribution of that Fan Art help increase and grow their fan base by helping foster a vibrant community. To close it down would limit and annoy their fans and not be good for them in the long run. The Japanese actually got this and created the rise of the Fan Art market - Doujinshi (self-published works). Friendly warning, be careful when searching for Doujinshi, it may come up with NSFW or straight up illegal material, depending on where you live.
So, should you make Fan Art?
Absolutely, but not only. If you're an underground artist --like me, not well known--, then you should create Fan Arts and share them everywhere you can! Your art will then have a chance to be seen by the vast crowd of fans of the licence. Use tags, people might find your art while searching for their favorite character. But do not copy the original art as it is: try to draw a pose that isn't too used and most importantly draw it in your own style. Also, make sure that the drawing is properly finished because fans tend to have high standards. So, good luck, it is not as easy as it sounds.
Make Fan Art but not only: as an artist, you probably have a project of your own, something unique that will create you a fan base. You need to work on this too!
To summarize, if you don't make any Fan Art, you're probably going to stay in the dark for a long time. But I think that you should also create something new rather than simply use references for your content: innovate, make awesome projects, be who you are!