The Lion King Fan-Art Archive is a fan site for a movie created by the Walt Disney Company, which holds all intellectual property rights to the characters and story of The Lion King. As fans, we have to abide by certain restrictions on our artistic creations that belong to a universe that technically belongs to someone else.

It's legal to make fan-art of established commercial trademarked characters (such as Simba and Nala and Kovu) under the "parody" provisions in most countries' copyright law. However, fan-art you create of these trademarked characters is derivative work, which means that the protections of copyright law for you are rather different from its protections for artists whose work is entirely original in concept.

The remainder of this page discusses your legal and practical liabilities in creating artwork based on the Lion King universe.

Protecting your artwork from being stolen is one of the biggest unpleasant realities of being an artist on the Internet. No matter whether you use watermarks, copyright notices, or Java-based protection systems, as long as it's possible to view a picture in a web browser, it is subject to being stolen.

Fortunately, however, the law is on your side, even if the technology isn't. This page contains links to helpful resources which should help if you find yourself in a position where you have to defend the copyright of your artwork.

Not "copywritten", not "copywrighted". The term copyright means the right to copy something. When Joe Artist claims that a piece of work is " 2002 Joe Artist", he's saying that he owns the sole right to copy that piece of work, and nobody else has that right. That's what the symbol means.

A "copywriter" is a person who writes the text in advertising. That has nothing to do with copyright.

Note: The symbol is easy to create. On a Macintosh, press Option+G. In Windows, hold down Alt and enter 0169 (one at a time, in order). If you use the numeric keypad, make sure Num Lock is turned on.

Copy-protection doesn't work.

Here are some of the most common ways people try to protect the art that they post; unfortunately, no method is perfect, and you have to choose one of the following, drawbacks and all:

  1. Abstinence. Don't post your pictures at all. This is perfect copy-protection, yes, but it means nobody can see the pictures. That surely isn't what you want.
  2. Copyright notices. Most people post their pictures with a simple copyright notice at the edge: " 2002 Joe Artist. Unauthorized redistribution is prohibited." This is accurate, doesn't interfere with the artwork, and reflects the fact that Joe Artist is in fact the legal copyright holder, and has the legal right to prosecute anybody who copies the picture. However, that doesn't usually stop peopleand a copyright notice at the edge of a picture is easy to crop out by someone who wants to pretend they drew it.
  3. Watermarks. One technique frequently used by people interested in protecting the saleability of their art is to put "watermarks", or semi-transparent text, right across the middle of the image (saying "DO NOT REDISTRIBUTE" or some such). The idea behind this is that removing the watermark is really difficultanybody who wants to steal the picture would have to either keep it in place and visible, or would have so much skill with Photoshop that they could probably make their own art if they wanted to. But the drawback is that it looks really ugly, and the original artist doesn't get to enjoy using the art as it was originally intended to look.
  4. Low-resolution Images. Artists who are concerned with making sure people can't make full-size prints of their pictures or otherwise enjoy them fully will post their pictures as small "thumbnail" images, only 200 or 300 pixels wide at most. This also has the problem that the original artists don't get to enjoy using the full-size pictures, unless they exist only to sell prints; and art thieves have no problem with copying small pictures.
  5. Java Art-Security Applets. Some sites provide a service in which you can have your art displayed in a Java applet within your browser, instead of as a directly included GIF or JPEG file. The idea is that you can't save the picture from within the Java applet as easily as right-clicking on it, as is normally the case. But the problem is that it's just as easy to do screen captures... in Windows, simply press PrintScreen and then paste into Paint, and you have a copy of the full screen (including the displayed picture), which you can then trim down to the size of the picture and save it. On the Mac, Command+Shift+3 saves a snapshot of the entire screen onto the Desktop. True, the resulting picture might not have quite the same quality as the original, due to JPEG recompressionbut for most art thieves, that's not a problem. (Another issue with the Java applets is that some of them are designed very poorly; one, for example, lets you select which picture you want to viewand then it makes a request for the URL of the plain GIF or JPEG file, which it sends in cleartext over the network. An art thief can easily sniff this URL request from the network and grab the picture directly.)
  6. No protection. The last alternative is to simply not worry about it. Accept the fact that posting art onto the Internet is equivalent to relinquishing the majority of your control over it (though not your rights to it). You always have copyright protection, if you have drawn the picture. Even putting a copyright notice on the picture does not in itself grant you any extra legal protectionall it does is to say clearly who owns the copyright. You still own that, under the law, even if you don't sign the pictureand with evidence such as the original sketch or computer files, you can successfully prosecute any thief in a court of law. And so worrying about copy-protection can easily be judged to be more trouble than it's worth.

If you draw Simba or Nala or Kovu, you are creating a derivative worksomething that U.S. law explicitly defines as being owned by the creator of the original work. Without Disney's permission, all fan-art and fan-fiction using their characters is in fact illegal. Now, don't panicmost entertainment companies (like Disney, Paramount, Dreamworks, etc.) tend to overlook these kinds of copyright violations. (That's how lionking.org has continued to exist all these years.) They realize that fan creativity is worth more to them in having good relations with their fans than they would gain by aggressively pursuing each and every violation, because usually nobody makes any money off fan-based creations. But that doesn't mean that it's not illegal. The Lion King fan-art and fan-fiction community exists solely because Disney allows it to. Read item #6 at the "10 Big Myths" site listed below; it specifically addresses this point.

Now, fan-art that doesn't contain copyrighted Lion King characterswell, that's fully protected under copyright law. Even when placed vaguely within the Lion King universe, it's still original work. But when you start using names and terms from Disney's work, yours becomes a derivative work and loses its protection.

So if someone steals your picture of Simba or Nala, you're pretty much out of luckbecause it wasn't really legal in the first place. Technically, under the law, you still retain the sole copyright over your work, but because it's a derivative work, even the copyright holder can't copy it. So neither you nor Disney has the right to copy or redistribute it. Similarly, if someone copies your picture of Simba or Nala, you have the legal power to stop them from posting or redistributing itbut you don't own that picture either. Derivative works are non-distributable under the law by either the original copyright holder or the creator of the derivative work, unless permission is given.

Don't let this scare you off from drawing Lion King characters! As long as the characters aren't portrayed in any way that Disney would object to (e.g. pornographic, overly violent, defamatory to Disney, etc.), they don't pursue these kinds of copyright violations. True Lion King fan-art is the core of this Archive, so please keep doing it!

Abstract concepts, such as characters, are not covered under copyright law. The only way copyright law protects a character is if the character is part of a published work: art, fiction, online role-playing, etc. The character is a "derivative work" in this case, and protected under the copyright of the original work. The only way to protect a character directly is to register it legally as a trademark.

If someone creates a character that resembles yours a little too much, pretty much the only thing you can do is to try to persuade the person (as politely as possible) that that character was your idea first, and you'd like them to change theirs. But one way to ensure at least some kind of protection and accountability for your character is to register it in the "Edit Characters" section in your artist account, where you can link it to a story that it appears in (thus putting it into the same copyright protection as the story).

If you see a piece of art in which a character is in a very similar pose to one of your pictures, unfortunately the law does not offer protection against that kind of theftposes are not technically copyrightable. However... if a picture is a direct trace of another picture, where it is clear that the picture was copied or traced line-for-line from another piece of art, then it is a copyright violation, and the original artist is within his or her rights to ask that the copied picture be removed.

This often involves a "judgment call"sometimes it's not obvious whether a picture is directly traced or not. But in any case, it is simply impolite to copy another artist's pose without permission, and it goes against the etiquette of the fanart.lionking.org community. If you would like to use another artist's pose as the basis for your own work, simply ask the artist for permission; chances are that he or she will be flattered, and very glad that you askedand you'll get to use that pose. What have you got to lose?

Don't steal software!

If you're going to be aggressive about protecting the copyright on your artwork, you'd better not be using stolen software. There is no double standard here: a pirated copy of Photoshop is every bit as bad as a ripped-off piece of artwork. Just because something can be gotten for free doesn't make it right to do so; if you're using an illegal copy of Photoshop or Flash, then you're doing the same thing that art thieves do. Please keep that in mind.

Yes, programs like Photoshop and Flash are expensive. But so is a car. You wouldn't steal a car just because you needed one and thought you could get away with it, would you? You wouldn't try to justify it by saying that the car companies "shouldn't be charging that much for them in the first place"?

R.I.G.H.T.S.

http://rightsforartists.com/

Full of real-world examples and written in plain English, this site is well-designed and will give you all the tools you need for registering copyrights, understanding terms, and protecting your work. Contains things like sample "Terms of Use" pages and "Cease and Desist" letters.

http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

Written by long-time Internet entrepreneur and author Brad Templeton, this site aims to address some of the major misconceptions people have about copyright, and to explain the truth according to law. It's a brief but very insightful read, and well worth your time.

Protection of Graphic Characters

http://www.publaw.com/graphical.html

In-depth legal discussion of the various issues involved with asserting "copyright" and "trademark" on characters you create, by intellectual property attorney Lloyd L. Rich.

http://www.copyright.gov

Part of the Library of Congress website network, this site contains the official rules and laws behind what copyright means to artists. Go here to read the actual facts if what you're looking for is hard reference.

Reporting Art Theft

I will take every reasonable action to prevent art theft from occurring at fanart.lionking.org, and while I do have to review every uploaded piece of art, I can't catch every single piece of copied art-- and so I need your help.

If you find evidence of stolen art in an artist's account, first try asking the person directly to remove the art. Each artist's e-mail address is listed at the top of his or her gallery pages, and in the profile. Often, an artist will not realize that stealing art is against the rules or frowned upon, and simply asking will get the art removed.

If the artist does not respond, or refuses to remove the art, please e-mail me with details of the stolen art, with URL links to it and to the art that it was stolen from, if possible. I'll take it from there.