It’s a long-held tradition that fan-art is one of those things that’s just going to happen whether a studio like it or not. From the professional to the downright weird, fans love to show their love and passion for something by making their own version of it. Apparently, that no includes replicating an entire episode, but what kind of copyright questions does this throw up?
For starters, this effort comes on the heels of another Sailor Moon fanart project that was shut down after the publisher holding the North American rights took offence to the Kickstarter project.
This effort avoids that foopah by going the voluntary route and asking fans to donate their energies for fun. Unfortunately, ‘for fun’ isn’t something that copyright law and the courts are known to appreciate.
That said, we should note that this project doesn’t intent to create a facsimile of the episode. Rather, contributors are free to choose their own style for whatever scene they are responsible for:
In the spirit of Bill Plympton’s Guard Dog Global Jam and James Harvey’s Bartkira, Moon Animate Make-Up is an animation project where every participating artist will animate one shot of an entire twenty-two minute episode of Sailor Moon.
Such an aspect is crucial because by doing so, the final creation may come under the parody clause of copyright law. That may sound a bit incredulous until you realise that a parody doesn’t necessarily have to poke fun at something. Serious parodies abound that are covered because rather than simply copy something, they draw attention to it and provide a source for comment and debate on the original. Replicating a Sailor Moon episode in a mish-mash of styles might be covered in such a way.
All this raises additional questions for the studio. How does such a project help (or hinder) them? While it’s nice to see fans engage with something that is 20 years old at this point, will it spur new fans, keep existing fans engaged and ultimately spur sales of the original manga and anime?
In a more general sense, this could prove an interesting case for what lessons there is to learn from a case like this. There is a new Sailor Moon series forthcoming next year, and a project like this could prove to a be a good way of stimulating interest in it.