I have been an anime lover ever since I was a kid. I remember watching Freeza get his ass kicked by Goku in his Super Saiyan 1 mode, and I got hooked. Now naturally, as an eCommerce businessman, I am much more inclined towards anime merch.
From a business point of view, anime merch is really lucrative. It’s because you don’t have to build an audience from scratch; instead, they are already passionate about the anime they watch.
But are anime products the right kind of products to sell online? Without the required permission, Anime Products are not advisable to be sold online. Anime products are usually copyrighted. Their increasing fan following has also increased the value of anime merch. Hence, most anime companies launch their official merch.
So, how to sell anime merch officially? To sell official merch online, you will require non-exclusive rights from the anime company itself. You need to visit their website and request permission.
At the end of this blog post, I have mentioned a list of websites you can visit and get the official license.
Is Anime Dropshipping Illegal?
No and Yes.
It is not illegal to sell anime products online, even if your business includes anime drop shipping.
You must have seen big brands mention “Official Merchandise” on any pop culture products, right?
They do so because they have obtained the necessary rights for these products.
Selling “Unofficial Merchandise” most certainly violates copyright and trademark laws. Without the owners’ necessary license, the selling process is illegal and most certainly will land you into trouble.
Sure, you may wonder how many stores dropship anime products without getting a license?
Here is the thing, you don’t know if they have obtained a license. In most cases, they have probably gotten permission early on during their store’s inception.
Secondly, it may happen that some store that you came across is selling anime products without a license, but that does not make it legal. The chances are that it will inevitably come into the limelight once the business grows. If they can’t fight the incoming lawsuit, their site will probably go down.
In any case, selling unofficial anime products will not do you any favor in the long run.
Can we sell fanart online without a license?
Many people wonder if selling fan art without a license illegal. It most certainly is. Every character you have seen and loved is the Intellectual Property (IP) of the creators. They literally gave birth to the character.
Hence, selling fan art of a popular character or anime series is no different from selling any other items. Now it does not mean you cannot make fan arts.
Sure, fan arts are always appreciated by anime creators and enthusiasts alike. Still, any commercial intent of creation always invites trouble.
How to get an official license to sell anime merchandise?
To sell anime merchandise online, you will need the parent company’s permission.
As I mentioned before, if you use any character, logo, or even fan art to make a profit, you may land into legal trouble.
But! Fret Not!
Follow these steps to obtain a license legally for anime dropshipping.
1. Find the Contact of the Owner.
Find out the owner’s contact details that you plan to sell. Yes, this starts even before you create the product.
Finding the parent company that owns the character copyright, especially anime, is a bit of a task and may need some research.
As far as I know, Viz Media owns some copyrights of popular anime series like naruto, one punch man, bleach, etc. You can contact them to get started.
2. Create a Business Proposal And Reach out
This part is a bit tricky. It would be best if you were thorough with your approach. Be ready with a business plan for the specific product categories you want to sell.
A proposal with a good business proposal not only creates a good impression of your company but also helps you with a long-term partnership. Here are some of the essential aspects of a business that you need to get sorted before approaching the owner company.
- Territory: Where do you want to sell? Specify the country or region.
- Rights: Most rights issued by the owner companies are non-exclusive. That means they can allow any number of merchants to use their rights.
- Product category: It represents the category your merch will fall under. It may be t-shirts, figurines, keychains, sneakers, etc. It would help if you mentioned how you would use the designs.
- Character Names: You also need to mention the anime characters you will use in your merch.
- Number of SKUs: This means how many unique products you will launch for each character.
- Distribution channel: You need to mention where you want to sell your products. Offline/Online or even in a B2B system.
- Business Plan for the term: This part may come after submitting the proposal, but you need to be ready with a business plan at hand. How will you sell the merch in the next 2-3 years.
- Minimum Guarantee: A minimum guarantee is a fee that you will have to pay to the owner to start selling their merch. The advance could be 50% of the projected business.
- Royalty Percentage: You need to offer the owner a specific royalty for each sale that you can make. It can vary from 10% to even more than 30% depending on the character.
- Sales Projection: The amount of revenue that you expect by the end of the given term
3. Prepare a Business Proposal
In this step, you finally draft an email to the owner company with all the relevant details asking for rights to sell the merch. A great template that you can use is given here by the good people of Tufts.
I know this sounds like a task. But if you want your store to be safe from any legal discrepancy, you need to take these actions.
Alternatively, you can create your designs to sell and dropship. You can even copyright your designs.
In the case of anime dropshipping, copyright issues can put you in a lot of trouble. Since they are branded products, your customer usually expects a high-quality item. But dropshipping from unknown Chinese sellers has a very high chances of creating complaints and accusations. Therefore, I would suggest you stay away from fake goods.
In the case of dropshipping products like t-shirts and sneakers that you can print and sell on-demand, you can control the quality. Still, most of the time, copyright strikes are inevitable.
It doesn’t mean you’ll get a call from a lawyer the following day after you imported such products. Some people manage to dropship such merchandise for some time successfully, but in the long run, you can expect problems.
It is always advisable to hire a IP lawyer to help you out in these situations.