Can You Sell Anime Art – Know These Two Situations

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When you create anime art that is not based on preexisting work, you can sell it freely. Let’s explore the topic and see when you can sell anime art and when you can not.


Key Takeaways

  • When your anime art is based on an original vision and does not have noticeable elements from preexisting work (and is not a derivative work/fan art), then you can sell anime art freely.
  • You can sell anime art if you own the rights to the work in question.
  • You can not sell anime art if you don’t own the artwork or have a copyright holder’s permit to sell it.
  • Link to U.S. Copyright Law.

Can You Sell Anime Art?

Selling anime art is totally fine if you own the artwork or have the needed rights to sell the artwork. If you don’t own the anime art (or the rights to it), you haven’t created it, or it has been taken from an online art site, then you don’t have the right to sell it.

The exception to this rule can be AI art if the AI art does not have copyright protection attached to it (currently, AI-generated art does not have automatic copyright protection).

If you find anime AI art online that does not have copyright protection (most don’t have it), then you can freely sell AI art like it was your own. However in these situations, you need to be 100% sure that the image in question is indeed created by AI.

You should also know that selling fan art is illegal, and the only anime art you can sell is original art or art you own.

Selling Original Anime Art

Original anime art features new characters, symbols, icons, and elements that are created by the anime artist.

You can sell your own anime art whenever you wish as long as it’s original. There are no legal restrictions on selling your own original art, so you can use it any way you want (merchandise, prints, clothes, etc.).

You can even provide other artists with licenses to use your work, and you’ll earn royalties from it.

An artist may also be commissioned to paint an original anime character, and they are free to sell their work.

If you like anime art and you are interested in earning a living from it, you can do so by creating unique characters. These should not be based on an established series or a character that is already popular.

You can develop your own character from scratch, and any paintings, drawings, or other artwork that you do will be automatically protected by copyright law (this is different for AI-generated art).

Original Anime Art vs. Anime Fan Art

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Kill la Kill fan art—original work (up) by Kadokawa Shoten, fan art below.

The characters that you will see in original anime art are unique. Many art collectors are drawn to these characters because of the skill portrayed in the drawings or the qualities of the character.

Copied anime art is a duplicate of the original work. You usually cannot tell the copied character from the original because the style is exactly the same for each drawing.

With copied art or fan art, the artist takes the time to produce a drawing that is often indistinguishable from the original.

With copied art, a character may be placed in a new setting, but it still looks exactly like the original.

When it comes to fan art, no matter how closely it represents the original vision and characteristics of the original artwork, it’s still illegal to sell it as your own.

Only if you have acquired the rights to create derivative work (fan art) can you truly sell it.

Selling Copyrighted Anime Art

If you want to sell anime art that is some other companies or artists’ IP (intellectual property), you need to contact them and ask for permission to use their IP for certain activities like selling it online.

You will see a lot of fan art on sale at conventions because many big brands don’t bother to track artists down; it’s a risk that some anime artists take. You never know which brands will tell you that you’re not allowed to sell portrayals of their copyrighted images.

As a rule of thumb, selling fan art is illegal without the copyright holder’s permission. Even if brands are not sending lawsuits to fan art artists, it doesn’t mean it’s legal.

Selling Copyrighted Anime Characters

You can sell copyrighted anime characters if you are licensed to do so. Under the law, the artist who owns that type of intellectual property must permit you to create derivative works for sale.

If you draw and sell a drawing of Naruto at your favorite fast food, it’s considered copyright infringement if it’s done without a license from the holder of the intellectual property.

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