Animation receives the same copyright protection as other forms of visual art like films and photographs. When embarking on a new project, animators should be aware of copyright law so they can protect their work and avoid infringing on someone else’s copyright. For more information or legal advisement, contact the experienced legal team at Duncan Firm.
Animators generally work under one of two arrangements: work-for-hire and freelance. In a work-for-hire situation, the company, individual, or entity that commissions the work owns the copyright. For this arrangement to be legally valid, it needs to be negotiated before the work begins and formalized in a contract.
For freelancers, the copyright situation is more complicated. If you create a piece of freelance animation, you are the copyright owner. When you license your work to another entity, you are free to negotiate the terms of its use. For example, if you create a TV advertisement for a company, you can specify that it can only be broadcast in certain markets. This leaves you in a strong negotiating position, as you retain some rights that you can sell later to generate more income.
Fan art, including fan animation, is on tenuous legal ground. If you use a character in your work owned by someone else, you are technically infringing copyright. It is up to the discretion of the copyright owner whether to challenge your use of their character, send a cease-and-desist letter, or take the case to court.
Many works of fan art are not challenged legally, either because the copyright owner encourages fan works, or because of the prohibitive cost of pursuing every case. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the possible legal ramifications of creating and posting fan art, as it does leave you vulnerable to lawsuits.
A number of the elements involved in animation, including physical and digital sketches, concept art, animation cels, and the finished product are eligible for copyright protection. To learn more about copyright law as it applies to animators, schedule a consultation with the team at Duncan Firm.