(In the context of United States law)
Basically I plan to rip model files from legally-obtained video game ROMs and then use those models as references for fan art (high-poly remodels of characters, vehicles, etc.)
My first question is if it's legal (ripping assets for personal use without redistributing/sharing them). If so, is it also legal if I download illegally redistributed model files and use them for the same purpose? Obviously redistributing is illegal, but is consuming?
I also want to state that I have always assumed distributing fan art is legal, even if I did use copyrighted assets as references and even if they are trademarked (I see it everywhere in drawings, etc., so long as I don't use it for profit or any other personal gain...?) If someone could definitively clear that up for me, that'd be great.
(Also a possibly related question, though I understand if it should be separate, but would uploading full renders of ripped models to a website be legal, as long as it's not the model itself?)