In light of the ruling in the Gary Friedrich/Marvel lawsuit, Steve Bissette has shared some advice from Jean-Marc Lofficier for artists:
This is the first time Marvel is using convention sales of copyrighted Marvel characters as a “weapon”. They are of course perfectly entitled to do so, legally speaking. But it does mean that, from now on, all of you here who draw sketches of Marvel characters for money at conventions or sell sketchbooks containing pictures of Marvel characters are on notice that you might be sued (usually for triple the amount you made) should Marvel decide to go after you.
My legal advice to you guys is simple: STOP and destroy all sketchbooks for sale with copyrighted materials in it. I’m serious. You’ve just been put on notice by this case… Based on the GHOST RIDER case, it is, in my opinion, only a matter of time until Disney, now aware of the issue, sends one of their young attorneys with a stash of blank C&D letters at conventions and start handing them out to everyone selling Marvel sketches without authorization.
Receiving that letter will oblige you to hire a lawyer and even if Disney lets you off the hook (which they probably will), you might be out of a couple of grands by the time the process is over — or you run the risk of being stuck with a $15K bill if you fight them.
Again, I emphasize: this is sound business practice for Disney; NOT doing it entails risks far greater than doing it. They have gone after children’s nurseries before which had Mickey painted on their walls for the same exact legal reason. And that was far more time consuming and bad PR-wise that going after some comic book guys at artist’s alleys.
This kind of thing has been rumored almost since Disney bought Marvel three years ago; that the company, known for being so protective of its property, would eventually go after artists doing commissions and the like. The Friedrich ruling certainly feels like a move in that direction, although it’s possibly worth bearing in mind that Friedrich did launch legal action first, but it’ll be interesting to see how (if at all) Marvel deals with the fallout of this decision and the nervousness and bad PR its brought with it.