PK 137: Is your fan art legal? Let’s ask an IP Lawyer. Interview With IP Lawyer and Indie Filmmaker, Seth Polansky

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“Just because you’ve got a stormtrooper pointing out of the picture saying ‘I want you!’ like that ‘Uncle Sam’ thing, you don’t get to use that stormtrooper IP – it’s not fair use.”

~ Seth Polansky, IP Lawyer

Go to any comic con and you’ll see countless artists selling fan art featuring some of our most popular characters.

From Spiderman to Superman and Harley Quinn to stormtroopers, it’s all there. But could you be breaking the law as an artist by producing this kind of work? And how can you avoid getting slapped with a lawsuit for infringing copyright?

Well, who better to ask than an expert in these matters?

In this interview, we talk with an actual IP lawyer, Seth Polansky, to see exactly where artists stand when making art based on our favorite comic book and game characters.

So, if you’ve ever innocently produced fan art (even if you haven’t actually sold it), you might want to listen closely. Because the advice you’ll get from listening to Seth just might save you a stack of money and help keep you on the right side of the law.

But as well as being an expert in legal matters, Seth is also a pretty awesome indie filmmaker and musician.

So, you’ll also hear about he keeps busy with numerous creative side projects when he’s not helping artists avoid huge legal costs from the big boys.

Is Your Art Legal? Let’s Find Out!

Interview Chapters:

00:00-03:30

Introduction and Overview

Your host, Mitch Bowler, introduces today’s guest, Seth Polansky, who gives you a brief overview of his career as an artist and and IP Lawyer.

He explains why he decided to specialize in this area after finishing law school, and why he’s devoted the past few years to helping artists avoid lawsuits and litigation.

04:01-04:38

What about Seth Polansky’s Other Projects?

When he’s not helping artists stay on the right side of the law, Seth is busy with indie filmmaking projects and music. How does he find time to fit it all in? You’ll find out in this chapter.

05:13-13:46

Could You be Breaking The Law as an Artist?

In this chapter, Seth explains copyright law and clears up any gray areas for artists. So, if you weren’t aware of any of this before, you might want to listen up and take note.

14:35-21:01

How can you Avoid Copyright Infringement?

Knowing what is (and what isn’t) acceptable use of someone else’s intellectual property (IP) can help you stay on the right side of the law and avoid any potential copyright issues as an artist.

In this chapter, Seth clearly spells out what you need to be aware of as an artist if you’re making fan art and asking yourself ‘is your fan art legal?’

And, he explains how you can avoid any potential legal issues.

22:40-24:38

Who should you Speak to First About Licensing?

Many artists don’t have too much experience of legal matters, so knowing who to approach can be tricky when pondering the question ‘is your fan art legal?’.

In this chapter, Seth explains why contacting a lawyer in the first instance is often a very good (an inexpensive) idea and tells you where to find an extremely useful legal contract template for artists online.

25:42-34:52

Seth on Indie Filmmaking and IP Issues

When he’s not busy being a lawyer, Seth is also a great indie filmmaker.

In this chapter, he talks about the projects he’s been working on and reveals what he’s learned about legal issues and making films in the process. Spoiler alert: There are some great film industry anecdotes in this chapter which you won’t want to miss!

35:10-38:23

Seth Polansky’s Advice for Comic Con Artists

Exhibiting your fan art at a comic con but still unsure if it’s legal or not? In this chapter, you’ll find all the info you need to help you stay on the right side of the tracks.

38:39-40:07

What about art based on older intellectual property?

Many of today’s most popular characters have been around for decades, meaning the original concept might be exempt from copyright law.

But how do you know which ones are ok to use? Seth clears up this gray area in this chapter.

40:35-43:14

Conclusion and Where to Find Seth Online

Want to know where to find Seth online and find out if your fan art is actually legal? Here’s the place to be! We hope this week’s interview with Seth Polansky helps you answer the question: ‘Is your fan art legal?’

Have you ever run into legal issues with any of your artwork or had someone question whether your art is infringing copyright law?

Get in touch in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!

People on this Episode:

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Wednesday morning 8AM EST.

Cheers,

Mitch

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