One of the most common misconceptions about shirts and logos is that a logo is copyright protected. However, most stamps are not covered by copyright. Instead, a trademark, legal protection that applies to a name, phrase, or logo, protect logos. On the other hand, copyrights are legal safeguards for writers, actors, musicians, and artists who create original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works.
Although many people confuse “copyright” and “trademark,” they are not interchangeable. Logo trademarks are filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and are valid for ten years. However, the USPTO requires registrants to file an affidavit stating that the trademark is still active after the fifth year. If registrants do not comply, the brand will be canceled and will no longer be protected. Furthermore, if you want to use a logo, you should first check the USPTO website to see if the trademark is still active. If it isn’t, you might be able to use it.
Copyright serves to safeguard the owner’s intellectual property rights. Put another way, and only the owner has the legal right to copy and reproduce their work. Without the owner’s permission, no one may use another person’s intellectual property.
As a result, under copyright law, the creator of the original material has exclusive rights to use the content in any form.
Given that you intend to open your t-shirt design store. I would advise you to ensure that the designs you are selling, particularly funny t-shirts, are not plagiarized.
If it is discovered, you could face serious legal consequences. Many designers and shop owners are unaware of copyright laws, which can lead to a legal nightmare.
As a t-shirt designer, you must obtain copyright so that no other person or organization can use your designs for commercial purposes without your permission.
It’s tempting to incorporate an appealing image, shirt quotes, or graphics into your design. However, any illegal use can land you in legal trouble in the future. To avoid such an unfavorable situation, it is preferable to be original and stick to the fundamentals.
The Copyright Laws of the United States should be read if you live in the United States and want to run a successful T-shirt design business without getting any legal notices.
As a t-shirt design shop owner and designer, you must understand how copyright can help you protect your intellectual property. Most importantly, this knowledge will assist you in avoiding any copyright infringements, which is critical to avoiding any legal issues.
What Happens If You Get Caught?
If a copyright holder files a claim against your T-shirt design, you may receive a takedown notice and be required to pay penalties. That’s not all, though. Your brand-new T-shirt company might also face the following problems:
- Loss of customers and business
- Invested funds are squandered.
- The fan base of a T-shirt company has been jeopardized.
- To make matters worse, you may be subject to additional criminal and civil penalties under copyright laws in the United States and Canada. These are some of them:
- A five-year prison sentence is a possibility.
- A fine of $250,000 is imposed.
- The copyright holder was awarded damages ranging from $750 to $30,000.
- A maximum fine of $150,000 per infringed work is possible.
Copyright violations are usually pursued in court by large corporations. This means you may be liable for legal fees and costs and copyright fines and penalties.
What if I violate copyright laws?
You might be perplexed about how so many celebrity quotes and images of movie characters and celebrities are being sold on the internet. They are being used and sold illegally unless they have received permission.
If the person or company whose work they are infringing on decides to take legal action, they will face the consequences. They have bigger fish to fry unless there is a significant monetary incentive.
If you’re found guilty of copyright infringement, you’ll have to pay damages and attorney fees, and court costs. This can quickly add up to huge sums. You may face criminal charges in some cases. Our recommendation is to stay away if you have even the slightest doubt.
The Modern Dog vs Target & Disney Case is an example of a company using another’s design and being stung (quite rightly!). Target and Disney vs Modern Dog
The design in question is the one depicted above. The photograph appeared in one of Modern Dog’s books, including artistic sketches of small dog faces. The t-shirt, which Target and Disney sell, is almost identical to the original artwork, down to the signature name beneath the drawing. The defendants, on the other hand, claimed that because the illustrations lack expression and fall into the “natural world” category, they were not entitled to broad copyright.
The case dragged on for years, and the Modern Dog founders were forced to sell their studio and launch a ‘Friends of Modern Dog’ campaign to cover the costs of the costly lawsuit. Modern Dog received the copyright assignment back in January of 2014.
What is the process for obtaining permission to print copyrighted content?
Obtaining formal permission from the owner of the copyrighted work is the only legal way to avoid the copyright problem. Also, If you want to use a copyrighted image in your t-shirt design, you’ll have to ask the original copyright owner if you can use or license their work directly.
Finding out who you need to speak with and contacting them is the first step. When (and if) you get in touch with them, be completely upfront about how and why you want to use the image. Also, before you ask, be certain of the rights you need.
The copyright holder is likely to demand royalties or fees in exchange for the rights to reproduce the copyrighted image. As a result, be ready to shell out some cash.
Consider the following:
Not only with your t-shirt designs but also with your product descriptions, be cautious. Linking your design to a person, group, movie, or book establishes a connection between the two and may result in legal action.
Although ‘parody’ is permitted in some fair use situations, be careful not to print anything too offensive. You don’t want to get into the realm of character assassination.
If you want to use something that you’re concerned about may be infringing on someone else’s copyright, make sure to do your homework and consult a professional if you’re still unsure.
Thank you for taking the time to read this!