'I almost got sued for knitting a Firefly hat': The legal risks of pop-culture fan art

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University of California’s Sunder believes that a variety of available merchandise is healthy for the free-market competition. “Are we moving away from crafty and DIY towards an official version of everything?” she questions, adding that the social learning aspect of creating art around things we’re passionate about is essential to learning and development. “One main purpose of copyright is to protect learning.”

Etsy seller Jessa agrees. “I understand the purpose of copyright and am not in disagreement with it, but I do believe that fans should be able to choose where they get their paraphernalia from,” she says. “If they want a certain piece from another fan instead of a company who doesn’t give a damn about the art, then that should be an option.”

In a utopian fan world, artists and copyright holders would work together to support fan bases through art.

“I fail to see how Fox doesn’t understand the great potential here. [Fox] could sell the licensing to individuals who make the hat or other items with their trademarks for a special ‘mom and pop’ fee,” says Lucas.

She believes that this approach would solve a few problems: The hat is supposed to be handmade, and Fox needs them to be mass-produced to keep up with demand. But more important, this arrangement would change the dynamic, so that it’s no longer a classic little-guy-versus-The-Man, David-versus-Goliath story.

“The fans won’t be pissed off,” she says. “They’ll be happier than ever to buy the hat to support independent artists, and Fox can still make their money.”

This story, "'I almost got sued for knitting a Firefly hat': The legal risks of pop-culture fan art" was originally published by TechHive.

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