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hey guys,

I am looking to start a t-shirt business soon, but I have some questions in relations to copyright that I have searched the internet for and I can't come to a clear conclusion. I have friends who I am starting this business with, 3 people all up, the other 2 aren't too concerned with copyright infringement. They keep saying things like.. "Look at the other sites out there, they wouldn't have permission to use these designs... they aren't getting caught or sued are they??"

I saw there was a similar thread on this topic however the example that I would like to put forward is more in relation to movies, music products..

first example is from snorgtees.

I can see they have numerous designs that would I think breach copyright, in particular there is one that says friday the 12th with clearly a picture of Jason there looking at the calender.

Another one would be save the clock tower.

This company is a larger company.. To my understanding they would have asked for permission before making the shirt?

Another thing similar to the other thread. I went onto cafepress.com.au I think it is... but from there I decided to search shirts that I thought would breach copyright.. I typed in Ron Burgendy.

It came up with heaps of different quotes on shirts from the movie - like I love lamp and I'm kind of a Big Deal.

I am thinking Cafepress this is just people uploading designs without any regard for copyright law.

another one on noisebot, it shows a picture of Chewbacca clearly.. and it says Jewbacca. Like this would have to be copyright infringement if they don't have permission right??


Please guys I need help turning my friends around to respect this!!

Cheers again.
 

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The examples you mentioned are not licensed product, they are parodies. When creating a parody, you are relying on derivative work or fair use laws. But it's important to understand that the owners of the existing intellectual property absolutely can take legal action if they choose. Because of the risk of being sued, creating a parody isn't automatically legal. But if you do get sued, you can defend yourself in court based on the concept of fair use.

And yes, much of what you see on CafePress (and other similar sites) are people uploading designs without any copyright or trademark filter. The sites do their best to remove these submissions, but they are not perfect.

That said, there is more to this than just the legalities. From a business perspective...

To believe these designs are legal is wrong.
To believe you won't get caught is naive.
To believe you can fight it out in court is expensive.

Wrong + Naive + Expensive = Flawed Business Model.

My advice is to work on original creative ideas. More often than not, to be successful in this business, you need to have designs that can stand on its own merit rather than rely on using existing IP. But if you absolutely have to use existing IP in your designs, be sure to put away money for legal fees.
 
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