Can someone pay me to draw a copyrighted character?
5 attorney answers
It would be illegal for you to accept compensation for violating copyright law (and trademark law) by creating drawings of copyrighted characters. If you do so, you are engaging in direct, willful, illegal copyright infringement. If you accept payment from others for doing this work, you are profiting from engaging in copyright infringement. This is blatantly improper and illegal. Further the persons who are paying you to perform this work are also guilty of violating copyright law---they are inducing your infringement.
Characters are also sometimes protected by trademark law----and your creation of drawings of characters for use by others in their businesses could be deemed to induce violations of trademark law.
Keep in mind that copyright infringement is both a civil and criminal offense----you could easily face criminal prosecution for accepting money to create these drawings. Is jail worth it to you?
I am not your lawyer and this is not intended to be legal advice on which you rely. My answer is merely intended to assist you in understanding some of the issues that you face so that you can make an intelligent choice when you hire legal counsel.
Unless there is some license agreement in operation or permission you should be cautious to undertake such work with regards to copyrighted work, of course it is legal to be paid to do the work. Your best bet is to consult with an intellectual property attorney regarding the matter.
Just as you cannot pay someone to rob a bank and get off scott-free, so too will this be problematic if an infringement.
However, as pointed out, there is a more nuanced approach to works such as these regarding infringement. While using the material of another can create a derivative work, which is an infringement, there may be defense to infringement. For example, if you were creating a cartoon character in designer clothes to make a statement about how fashion is driving culture or etc.
When it comes to single works of art, the analysis can get a bit complicated. The short answer is that you are creating a derivative work, which is not your right to do. Because we have very strong protections of free speech in the US, there are certainly situations whereby doing this would not be actionable infringement. For example, when the work falls clearly under a the doctrine of fair use:
1.The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
If your work was created for the purpose of social commentary, criticism, news reporting, etc. something along these lines it may be considered fair use. But fair use is a legal defense and the copyright holder is always free to drag you into court and force you to prove out your use as fair. So if you plan on relying on that defense you better be right and that rightness better be obvious.
Further, if your work sufficiently transformed Bart then most certainly this would be fine. But merely depicting Bart in some other circumstance, such as wearing designer clothes, would not get you there. Just based on what you offered here it sounds like you are straight up infringing and should stop doing that.
If this is of great importance to you, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
Yes, that is illegal. It makes no difference if you are paid for your work or not.
I strongly suggest that you stop doing this and that you channel your creative talents on coming up with original work.
As I have mentioned to others with similar questions, I believe that you want to honor others' copyrights, and now that you know that it is almost certainly illegal, you will discontinue this practice!
These are ideas, not legal advice. By answering this question, I am not becoming your attorney. No attorney client relationship is intended by my answer. I cannot provide any real help without more details and establishing an atty/client relationship. There is no relationship established by my blog.