We Built This City

We Built This City
Max-Level Crafters

Nova Barlow | 26 Jan 2010 12:32
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Nelia and Gey's commercial efforts raise an obvious question: Is it even legal to profit from another company's IP? Gey reports Argenta Collaborative hasn't run into any difficulties with the copyright police yet. "Nintendo is really lax with the whole idea of letting crafters make accessories for them. They're a cultural icon, and they know we're not trying to steal their thunder, but celebrate their gifts to us."

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For its part, online craft marketplace Etsy takes a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to enforcing copyright. Etsy's Adam Brown notes the policy is due to the open nature of the site, where it is impossible to know beforehand what items will appear in each individual shop. Occasionally complaints do occur, and at that point a representative from Etsy contacts the seller to address the situation. "It doesn't happen as much with videogames," Brown observes. "From what I've heard, Nintendo is really into fan art. They see it as an addition to the game 'culture.'"

Although some companies look the other way, not all game publishers are friendly to commercial fan art, handcrafted or otherwise. One company that has been cracking down noticeably on community profiteering is Blizzard. "We are constantly amazed by the level of artistic talent our players exhibit," says Public Relations Coordinator Kacy Dishon. "When it comes to projects like these, Blizzard Entertainment does reserve the right to control the commercial use of our products, characters, trademarks, etc. We do encourage and provide ways for our players to share their creativity with the world via our various contests through the year."

Unfortunately, company approval remains a grey area for individual crafters, and not everyone has been so fortunate as to escape notice, even from companies who are theoretically sympathetic toward fan efforts. "I had over a half a dozen Pokemon listings that were removed when the U.S. licensing head sent Etsy an email and demanded they be removed," Nelia says. Like most crafters, she took it in stride. "It didn't cost me anything, I wasn't sued, and it's not really that big of a deal," she says. Pokemon themed items are still available on Etsy, but the number of listings is small. It appears you can stop sales, but you can't put a cease and desist on creativity.

In the meantime, videogame crafting overall is on the rise. According to Brown, the number of Etsy listings with the tag "video game" (and several close variants) increased by 87 percent in 2009 - and those are just the items up for sale. It's rare a week goes by that I don't see a new "handmade" game-related craft making the rounds across blogs and social media sites. "There's a really high demand for one-of-a-kind geek crafts, and if you find that little 'niche,' you'll find others who love geekery just as much as you do," Nelia says.

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