Selling Fan Art in Malaysia: Is It Legal? Your Essential Guide to Copyright Laws

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Fan art has become a thriving subculture within the creative community, offering artists a platform to express their love for their favorite anime, cartoon and comic while connecting with like-minded enthusiasts.

However, when it comes to making a profit from fan art, understanding the legal landscape is crucial. In Malaysia, copyright laws govern the protection of intellectual property, and navigating these laws can help artists avoid infringement while still enjoying the fruits of their creative labor.

Understanding Malaysian Copyright Law

In Malaysia, the Copyright Act 1987 serves as the primary legislation safeguarding intellectual property rights. This law grants creators exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their works. Copyright protection is automatically granted upon the creation of an original work, providing creators with control over how their creations are used.



Fan Artist Must Be Careful!

Fan art, by its nature, involves the creation of derivative works based on existing intellectual properties. While this practice is often celebrated within fan communities, monetizing such creations can raise legal concerns if not done carefully. Infringement occurs when fan art uses copyrighted material without the proper authorization, potentially resulting in legal consequences.


Understanding Artistic Works and Originality

Section 3(a) of the Copyright Act 1987 provides a definition of artistic work, including graphic works, photographs, sculptures, or collages. Importantly, artistic quality is not a prerequisite for copyright protection.

However, Section 7(3)(a) emphasizes that a work is only eligible for copyright if it is original. This means that verbatim copies or direct reproductions, such as tracing may not meet the threshold for originality, raising questions about their eligibility for copyright protection.


Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners

Section 13 of the Copyright Act 1987 outlines the exclusive rights granted to copyright owners. These rights include reproduction, distribution, and public display, among others. Fan artists must be aware that these rights are vested in the original creators, and any unauthorized use may constitute copyright infringement.


Understanding Copyright Infringement

Section 36(2)(a)-(c) of the Copyright Act 1987 explains what constitutes infringement. Copyright infringement occurs when an individual, without the consent or license of the copyright owner, imports an article into Malaysia for the purpose of selling, letting for hire, trading, offering or exposing for sale or hire, distributing for the purpose of trade, or publicly exhibiting the article.

In the context of fan art profitability, this means that selling or distributing fan art without obtaining permission from the copyright owner may lead to legal consequences. This is particularly relevant for fan artists who monetize their creations, as they may be considered to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright, as specified in Section 36(2)(b).


What Should A Fan Artist Do?

To avoid infringement, artists must be cautious about reproducing copyrighted characters, settings, or distinctive elements without obtaining the necessary permissions. While fan art is generally created as a form of homage, commercializing these creations without consent can be a breach of copyright.

Before selling fan art, seek permission from the copyright holder. Some intellectual property owners may grant licenses for fan art sales, allowing artists to use their characters for commercial purposes. Contact the relevant parties and negotiate a fair agreement.



In conclusion, while the realm of fan art in Malaysia offers exciting opportunities for creative expression, artists must navigate the legal landscape with care.

By understanding the provisions of the Copyright Act 1987, fan artists can strike a balance between their creative passion and the legal considerations that govern their craft.

Seeking permission and ensuring originality of the artwork are key principles to safeguard against copyright infringement and foster a thriving fan art community in compliance with Malaysian law.

To get more understanding on Intellectual Property Law in Malaysia, read this book

To read more of my article in Bahasa Melayu, click here

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is essential to consult with a qualified legal professional for advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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