Fan Comics: Flattery or Copyright Infringement?

As an artist and someone who spends way too much time on the internet, copyright infringement has become a major issue that people are debating the definition of, and how this issue should be dealt with. At what point do we step over the line from fan art to the outright stealing of a beloved franchise? Although there is more at play than I will talk about, I want to state my opinion on the matter as I wait alongside everyone else to see how this is going to play out.

As I began writing this blog, I found out that one of my favorite YouTube channel, Team Four Star, had lost their channel to copyright infringement allegations. This channel features several spoofs and rewriting of anime shows such as Van Helsing and DragonBall Z, as well as Lets Play content and reviews.

This difficult situation happened only a few hours ago, so I am not sure what the fate of their channel will be, but I feel like YouTube is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are a large pest control company that makes money off of content uploaded by everyday people and the advertising benefits therein. In the last year or so they have been locking down on copyrighted material, and shutting down channels to investigate these matters. I understand that they have investors and must also follow the law, but I believe the franchises that cry infringement are only hurting themselves.

YouTube has become a huge site that hosts all kinds of entertainment, and how to videos and which are based on the idea that we the ordinary everyday people have a voice. It has always been a community that has helped people down on their luck or dreamers to have a career and share what they love to do with others. There are always trolls and people who just desire to make everyone else lives miserable, but they are not the bulk of the masses.

Freedom of Speech I think covers self-expression, but the line starts to blur when people try to make money off of others hard work. I can see how this is a problem, and I had a whole lesson in college about how to sell your fan art without coming under fire for copyright issues. Nintendo is a prime example of a company that will stop at nothing to curb potential copyright infringement, including stomping on those that are endorsing their products. I think it is a waste of free exposure, as trends have proven that what Youtubers play becomes popular and noticed much quicker and gains notoriety above the other titles that exist.

There is a glimmer of hope, however, has I have recently seen with indie developers Scott Caughlin and Toby Fox. These two developers created Five Nights at Freddie’s and Undertale respectively and had allowed and encouraged fans to make tributes and art from their games. Both of these games have risen to popularity and have several comic strips, AMV’s, and spoof series come from them, and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. Let the people enjoy your work, and great things will come to them and you as everyone is allowed to show their love in creative ways.