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oziumjinx June 13th, 2005 11:53 AM

T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
Can someone point me in the right direction regarding copyrighted artwork, how t shirts can be secured as copyrighted material, and any other information one should know before venturing into this business.

I've been seeing a large number of "Speaker City" t shirts and Im wondering if this is copyrighted, or freeley available to make as many copies as one desires.

Also, if a t shirt site doesnt explicity state that their artwork is copyrighted, who's to stop the guy next door from copying their art and selling their own shirts with that art?

Do you need to copyright each shirt design? What is the typical timeframe for getting a copyright for your art, etc?

All help is appreciated. First time posting, and looking forward to more discussion.

-=Vince

Rodney June 13th, 2005 02:34 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
Hi Vince,

I'm not a lawyer, and you would probably get better information talking to an intellectual property rights attorney, but...

The main source for finding out copyright information would be the US Copyright office:
http://www.copyright.gov/

They have a lot of main copyright questions answered in their FAQ:
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/

All artwork is copyrighted at the time it is created. Registering a copyright usually only helps you to prove that you created the artwork first in case you want to go after another party for infringement (in which case you would need to hire a lawyer to prosecute the offenders).

In the Speaker City situation would probably fall under a "trademark". If there is a business that has the "Speaker City" name trademarked, they would have the most recourse in going after people using their name in t-shirt designs.

Unless you can prove you have the original copyright for a design, it can be come difficult to prove which design came first.

This part of the copyright site explains what can and can't be copyrighted:
http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wwp

I believe the cost to register a copyright is around $20 for each work.

I've read that some people put all of their designs in a book format and copyright the whole book as one work.

If you are really worried, you may want to copyright each design separately.

The real test is how well your registration will hold up in a court of law in the event someone has stolen your copyrighted design. I don't know of any cases where this has been tested.

Some slogan based designs can and are trademarked. If your design is more slogan/text based, you may want to look into registering a trademark instead. Keep in mind that not all t-shirt slogans can be trademarked, as trademarked are usually reserved to protect "brands" rather than protecting a "slogan". If you can prove your slogan is your brand, I think you may have a better chance at securing a trademark.

Quote:

Also, if a t shirt site doesnt explicity state that their artwork is copyrighted, who's to stop the guy next door from copying their art and selling their own shirts with that art
All work is copyrighted at the time it is created. Registering the copyright only helps to prove that you originated the artwork first, but it doesn't necessarily stop someone from using your design.

That's where lawyers and courts come in. Whether you have an official copyright, trademark, or whatever, if someone steals your design, you'll most likely need to hire an intellectual property rights attorney to protect your rights.

So if you have the money to hire an attorney to go after people who have stolen your design, then you probably have the money to hire an attorney to handle the copyright/trademark registration process.

I've gone through the trademark registration process and it can be an expensive and looong journey.

In some cases, it can be well worth the investment, but for small t-shirt companies just starting out, I've found that most are just fine by focusing their energies on creating unique designs and marketing those designs to the best of their abilities. After it takes off or starts to head in that direction, that's when I see most t-shirt companies start to protect certain designs or their overall brand. That way they aren't spending money on trying to protect something that may never sell well or even need protecting :)

But if you're a big corporation and/or you have the money for it and have confidence in your design and brand, why not go ahead and go through the steps beforehand to protect your design? I'm sure that's how companies like No Fear and Vulcom did it.

Even larger companies like "threadless" don't seem to have an official trademark registered (although American Apparel *does* have an official trademark).

Sorry for the rambling post. I hope this helps :) I plan to write an article about this in the upcoming weeks that's a bit more concise.

silverbolt September 19th, 2005 08:13 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
I read somewhere on this board ( I think) if you change an image a number ??? of times, it becomes a new work of art. What is that magic number and can someone elaborate on the specifics a bit.

thanks,
Silverbolt

aokusman September 19th, 2005 08:58 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
You can have all your designs in a book, then copyright the book.

8POINT5BRAND September 19th, 2005 09:20 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
I heard it was 7 things. change 7 things about an image and its yours. i also heard yo can put all your images in an envelope and ,mail it to yourself, and keep the envelope sealed. dont know how true it is so dont quote me on that. i have Tm's on all of my stuff and it took me 15 months to get it. i dont know about copyrights its probably the same. its costly $$$ for each, you can go straight to the goverment and it will be cheeper than getting it done through a lawyer.

Solmu September 19th, 2005 11:14 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by 8POINT5BRAND
I heard it was 7 things. change 7 things about an image and its yours.

No. No no no no no no NO. There is no magic number. Even the smallest part of an original work being included in your own work can void your copyright and put you in legal trouble. It totally depends on the work involved, it's on a case by case basis, and there is no magic formula.

Adapting other people's work is simply a bad idea (unless you have written permission, in which case go for it). You are best off creating your own work, or hiring someone else to create it for you (under contract).

It would be easier to take other people's work, and it would be cheaper not to have to pay a lawyer to protect you. But life isn't easy or cheap. This is definitely "talk to your lawyer" territory if you're dealing with any kind of grey area.

Quote:

Originally Posted by 8POINT5BRAND
i also heard yo can put all your images in an envelope and ,mail it to yourself, and keep the envelope sealed. dont know how true it is so dont quote me on that.

I finally got around to doing a bit of reading on this topic.

Basically Rodney is right - this offers you no legal protection.

Some surprisingly authoritive sources will sometimes recommend it as an economical solution, but it's not really worth the risk. Basically the reason it's not accepted is because it's too easy to forge.

The easiest way to do this would be to send an unsealed envelope to yourself, then later put something in it and seal it up. Courts are not stupid, they've already thought of this. Consequently they're unlikely to give this method much credence. From what I'm told it has never successfully been used in a court to prove ownership (though I know a lot of people who'd be curious to hear otherwise if you know an actual court case in which it worked).




aokusman September 19th, 2005 11:20 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
It all depends how you feel. If you feel that your design is so good that people will want to copy it, then get it protected. Its all up to you. Copyright is much cheaper than trademarks.

8POINT5BRAND September 19th, 2005 11:20 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
yeah you hear alot of urban myths on the subject.

Logo-Mechanix September 20th, 2005 05:49 AM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
A good way to copyright your work is after it is created print it out and mail it to yourself but do not open it when you get the mail back. I do this with my custom art, although I have never had anybody try to rip me off (that I know of). This is a cheaper way since a stamp is alot less than than an actual copyright and should work as far as proving you created it first.

John

Solmu September 20th, 2005 06:50 AM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Logo-Mechanix
A good way to copyright your work is...

No it's not, as I said in this thread three posts ago. I previously thought it might work, and I was wrong.

If you want more info on the topic read this.

A good way to copyright your work is to register it with an official copyright office (e.g. Library of Congress, National Library of Australia, etc.). Alternatively, document your work heavily and hope you can prove you own the copyright. Poor man's copyright, however, is a myth.

Do you need to register your copyright? Maybe, maybe not. That's up to you. But mailing it to yourself is unlikely to help. If you do insist on doing it, I'd at least suggest doing it properly - get the work signed, dated and witnessed and send it registered mail.




SefacHotRodder September 24th, 2005 03:45 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
http://www.snopes.com/legal/postmark.asp

jdr8271 September 24th, 2005 03:54 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
The poor mans copyright can help if you are suing someone.

The only way to stop someone in their tracks if they are using your art is to have it registered with the US copyright office. Most people are not willing to get into trouble with the US copright office, but really wont care about your poor mans copyright.

aokusman September 24th, 2005 05:52 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
Who needs s poor mans copyright when it just cost $30?

jdr8271 September 24th, 2005 06:20 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
well, if you sell 50 designs that could get expensive...

MarkSD September 24th, 2005 06:31 PM

Re: T Shirt Design Copyright Info
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jdr8271
well, if you sell 50 designs that could get expensive...

You could submit something similar to what a photographer does, a photo contact sheet. Gang as many as you can onto one sheet of paper.

Mark in SD


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