Copyright Concerns Can Ruin a Great T-Shirt

Copyright Concerns Can Ruin a Great T-Shirt

Using custom t-shirt design services can be a fun and creative experience. Now, we have the technology and ability to express ourselves through true individual expression by placing our thoughts, feelings and art on custom designed t-shirts. However, like most forms of expression online t-shirt designers can provide a tempting ground not only for original ideas, but also stolen ideas.

Why spend $25 on a t-shirt of Mickey Mouse at Disneyland when you can just copy an image and design your own? Because it s illegal. Likenesses of celebrities, cartoons, slogans, sayings, art, photographs and more are protected under United States Copyrights laws.

According to copyright and trademark law, any original work created in a tangible form is automatically copyrighted at the moment of its inception. It doesn t matter if the work is published or unpublished. This includes sound recordings, literary work, art, graphics, software, motion pictures and more.

Celebrities fall into a fuzzier area. Although they are not officially copyrighted material, most own the rights to their likeness and using their picture for any reason, without express permission, is considered illegal. However, it is ok if you ve taken the picture yourself. For example, if you had your picture taken with your favorite singer backstage at a concert you could place the photo on a shirt.

In order to avoid copyright lawsuits most online t-shirt design companies require designers to accept their user agreement, which explains many of their copyright rules. They reserve the right to refuse service to anyone that has broken these rules. Additionally, they can refuse to print material they deem offensive, vulgar, obscene, threatening or inappropriate.

Now, it may seem obvious that you can t copy a picture of Mickey Mouse and put it on a t-shirt, but it is also illegal to take someone else s t-shirt idea or graphic and claim the design yourself, for instance by only slightly altering a word or phrase. Though this may seem harmless, it is an illegal act and punishable by law, unless you are given permission by the copyright holder.

Being creative and designing clothing with custom t-shirt design services is fun and with advances in technology, it s easier and cheaper than ever to share your art or your ideas. Just make sure you express your own original thoughts, not someone else s.

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Resources

Sprd.net AG. (2000). Copyright : Spreadshirt - Custom T-shirts - Design, Buy and Sell Customized shirts. spreadshirt. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from http://www.spreadshirt.com/Copyright.448.0.html

U.S. Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). (2001). Copyright Office Basics . Office. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wci

Zazzle.com, Inc. (2000). Zazzle.com Help: Answer. Retrieved February 12, 2007, from http://zazzle.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/87

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