Midwest FurFest's Dealers Den policy prohibits fan art, causes fan concerns
Midwest FurFest has always had a no-piracy rule. The specific wording may change from year to year, but the intent and implementation has not. If you have further questions or concerns, please engage with our Dealers Den staff directly, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
— Midwest FurFest (@FurFest) August 12, 2018
Midwest Furry Fandom Inc. prohibits the sale or offer for sale at Midwest FurFest of items that reproduce third parties’ intellectual property without the express written permission from the owner.
Prohibited are included but not limited to:
Unlicensed depictions of characters appearing in third parties' movies, TV shows, books, sound recordings, still images, sculptures or any other media. No fan art; no counterfeit goods.
The reaction to the policy's wording has been very negative, with many finding the the policy too extreme. The wording is more strict than Anthrocon's similar policy, which simply says that "pirated" material is prohibited. But the policy could offer more protection of the convention and content creators from possible legal liabilities. In the United States, fan art is derivative work, for which only the original copyright holder has distribution rights. There are "fair use" exceptions to this, as in parodies, and because "fair use" is determined on a case-by-case basis, fan art is a complicated subject in Intellectual Property law.
According to MFF's Twitter, the policy is not new, despite this it was clearly news to many members of the community. It's unlikely this restriction has ever been enforced heavily, and furries pointed out that fan art can be found in abundance at conventions. This makes determining the threshold for restricted fan art unclear. Furthermore, it's not apparent how this policy is handled, except that it is noted that failure to comply can result in loss of dealer privileges or even removal from the premises. MFF tweeted that its legal team is working to clear things up, and when reached to by Flayrah for comment, convention chair Rama reiterated MFF's goal to remove the ambiguity from the situation.