How To Avoid Copyright Infringement With T-Shirts the Easy Way
Whether you want to make an awesome birthday gift for your best friend or start a small business, creating t-shirts with various prints can get you in trouble with the U.S. copyright laws, especially with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.
How Does T-Shirt Design Copyright Infringement Work?
Copyright claims, author’s rights, copyright notices, and intellectual property—copyright has a lot of rules and concepts that might be confusing or unfamiliar to you. The most important takeaway is that all original creative content enjoys copyright protection. Every time someone copies or uses it without the author’s permission qualifies as copyright infringement.
If you think that it would be cute to print a new t-shirt with Mickey Mouse on it, you may be right, but it will count as copyright infringement of Disney’s intellectual property. Besides images and other visual artwork, copyrighted content includes:
- Literary works, including quotes
- Plays and movie scripts
- Movies and TV shows
- Architectural works
- Digital content, including video games, websites, and software
Copyright Infringement Repercussions
The worst that can happen when you print a t-shirt with a copyrighted design is that the author files a lawsuit against you. This scenario is possible only if the author registers their work officially with the U.S. Copyright Office.
While small creators usually won’t go that far and will opt for takedown notices and cease and desist letters, big companies that own the rights to popular movies, TV shows, music, and characters have huge legal teams that won’t hesitate to take you to court.
The possible penalties in such situations include:
Is Printing a Logo Copyright Infringement?
Copyright laws don’t protect logos, but it doesn’t mean you can use them without any concern. Logos, symbols, company names, and other similar content used to recognize a brand fall under trademark laws and the regulation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
To understand the difference between copyrighted and trademarked material better, consult the table below:
|Learn About The:||Copyright||Trademark|
|Original creative works like books, songs, movies, etc.||Any content (word, symbol, or design) used to identify the source of goods|
|Protection Duration||Author’s life and an additional 70 years||As long as it’s used in commerce|
Designing t-shirts with an image of Iron Man and the Marvel logo are two different violations of intellectual property laws, but the most important idea is that neither is allowed.
Does My T-Shirt Design Infringe on Copyright?
If you’re hesitating to start printing out t-shirts due to possible copyright infringement, you can use these questions to determine whether you should go for it or rework your designs:
- Do I have written permission or a license to use this image? If you find a cool design on the internet, you should reach out to the author and ask for authorization in writing that you can use it on a t-shirt. In case the website where you found it didn’t give credits to the author, you still don’t have the right to use it. You can attempt to contact big companies for a license to use their copyrighted content, but those licenses usually cost exorbitant amounts of money
- Can I defend my t-shirt design under the fair use doctrine? Using copyrighted content without infringement is possible in certain situations under the fair use doctrine, but the court decides about the validity of such defense on a case-by-case basis
- Can I use this image without authorization? While you need to be extra careful when using images from the internet, public domain content doesn’t require any special permissions. Due to the limits on copyright duration, you can now use all creative works produced before 1925. The public domain cut-off point moves up every year, so even more content becomes available
How To Steer Clear of T-Shirts Copyright Infringement
The best way to avoid copyright infringement when printing t-shirts is to use original designs. Even if graphic design isn’t your forte, an increasing number of programs offers easy-to-use tools for creating and editing visual content.
The table below can help you understand the dos and don’ts of original design work:
Resources for Avoiding Copyright Infringement With T-Shirts
If you plan to start selling t-shirts with creative designs, check out this table of useful resources for images that won’t cause copyright infringement lawsuits:
Public domain images
How Can DoNotPay Help With T-Shirt Copyright Infringement?
Avoiding copyright infringement with t-shirts is complicated enough. You don’t need someone else stealing your original work after hours of research about what can and can’t be used. If you notice your digital print on someone else’s t-shirt, you can protect your creative effort with DoNotPay.
Registering the copyright and filing lawsuits can be great methods to secure your rights, but they’re usually the last resort. The better way is to create a DMCA takedown notice with DoNotPay and send it to the website owner or the infringer’s internet service provider.
Relying on DoNotPay to create well-written and efficient takedown notices will save you time spent on learning about the DMCA and money you would otherwise spend on lawyers.
You can get your takedown notice by following these simple steps:
- Set up your DoNotPay account in any
- Select DMCA Takedown
- Answer a few questions about your work and the infringement
- Confirm your contact details
- Click on Sign and Submit
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