An Ethics Question

Hey, so I have an ethics question, I think, about artistic work, fan fiction, etc.

I’ve never been very drawn to writing fan fiction (unless Paramount calls and asks me to write a Star Trek novel), but I’m finding that I do kind of want to draw fan art when I’m designing fabrics.

Specifically, I was sketching some winter trees, and that made me think of Narnia, and then I ended up with a design of three winter trees and a lamppost (with Kavi’s help). And I actually titled it “Winter Solstice in Narnia” until someone on the Spoonflower design FB group reminded me that Narnia is under copyright still. (Interestingly, it’s not in Canada. But it is in the U.S.)

So I took off the “Narnia” bit on the title, so it’s just trees and a lamppost, which is obviously still an homage to Narnia in my mind, but not specific enough to be a copyright or trademark infringement, I’m pretty sure. I’m reasonably comfortable selling that fabric design on Spoonflower, without feeling like I’m ripping anyone off.

But I’m not sure where the line is.

– if I add a lion to the fabric, is it too close?

– if I add a faun dressed in clothes, holding a cane, is that too close?

– if I add a queen in a chariot, is that too close? how about if there’s a small boy beside her, eating candy?

– if I quote a line from the text, is that too much?

Where does it go from homage to rip-off? And I guess I’m asking both about what people feel, and about where the legal lines are.

I’m not expecting to ever make more than a few dollars from this, since this is just a hobby for me, not my business. If I were really setting out to do a line of Narnia textiles, I’d contact the estate and negotiate rights. But for this kind of hobby-is thing, I’m not sure what’s appropriate or legal.

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