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If you visit one of those sites where you can design your own shirts, most will tell you outright that you can't upload images of celebrities as your design. On some sites, you can use politicians in your designs though. There have been discussions about the illegality of using political figures in your shirts although I read on one site that this is allowed in some states (don't ask me for the site though). Also don't know where the line is if the politician is also a celebrity like Gov Swartzenegger.
 

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On some sites, you can use politicians in your designs though. There have been discussions about the illegality of using political figures in your shirts although I read on one site that this is allowed in some states (don't ask me for the site though).
Elected officials have 'right of publicity' just like any other citizen. So technically, using their name and likeness is infringement. But they generally do not pursue legal action in these cases because it would likely result in negative attention. So while it's not exactly legal (because the politician does have the right to sue), it tends to be very low risk (because politicians usually choose not to sue).

Also don't know where the line is if the politician is also a celebrity like Gov Swartzenegger.
The line is drawn by the politician or celebrity. It's up to them if they want to sue for infringement. Like I said, politicians usually choose not to. But in the case of celebrity politicians (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura) both have filed infringement lawsuits in the past. So I would say the celebrity status trumps the politician status.
 

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If a celebrity is living, do you have to get permission from both the celebrity and the photographer?
Yes, you need to negotiate permission or license from the celebrity (to use their name and likeness) and photographer (to use their copyrighted photo).

And what about if the celebrity is deceased?
Same as above.
 

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This is not to dispute anybody but I believe it is information like these(below) that causes confusion or maybe creates an urban legend.

"Examples of Prohibited Content

NO photos, logos, caricatures, or other artwork depicting celebrities, such as Michael Jackson or Madonna, or other third parties... Political figures are permissible because there is an exception to the general rule for political figures."
Source: CafePress.com : Customer Service : Content Usage Policy

"CELEBRITIES
...By selling T-Shirts depicting celebrity images, without permission, we would be clearly violating the law...

Political Figures Exception
Conversely, political figures – while many enjoy “celebrity” status (and notoriety for that matter) – are fair game."
Threadless graphic t-shirt designs; cool & funny t-shirts weekly! Tees designed by the community.


This is a less reliable wiki but the info is nevertheless freely available in the internet

"Images of political figures are public domain-IF THEY ARE NOT UNDER COPYRIGHT by someone who has either photographed or filmed that person. For instance, images released by the Whitehouse or employees of the government or thereof are in public domain...Even some of the images floating around on Google and Yahoo are under copyright so always read the information accompanying it or look for the copyright symbol before using the picture. "
Source: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Are_image..._of_Obama_without_paying_royalties_to_anybody
Note: "some" as underlined above can give the impression that "most" are "fair game"

Disclaimer. I am simply presenting unverified information that are readily available on the internet for the purpose of discussion. As a rule, CONSULT A LAWYER. You may or may not have the rights. HOWEVER, of more concern is the right of the other party to sue (if he/she feels that his/her right is violated) because the court can be an expensive way to find out who's right.

My personal advice is to just stay away from images that may cause possible problems in the future.

 

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This is not to dispute anybody but I believe it is information like these(below) that causes confusion or maybe creates an urban legend.
Yes, I would say some information can cause a bit of confusion.

While the full articles on CafePress and Threadless do give some good insight into IP laws, some of it can be misleading and does not tell the whole story. But I would say it's not meant to be legal advice, just an effort to define what is eligible to be submitted on their sites.

The excerpts you posted from CafePress and Threadless are simply claiming that usage of political figures is allowed. But what about the copyright of the photo?

The Wiki answer focuses on whether the image is copyrighted or in the public domain. But what about Right of Publicity?

My point is, while these bits of information may be correct, none of it tells the whole legal story.

And as far as political figures being an "exception" or "fair game," there is no law that prohibits elected officials from bring action against infringement. While they may give up certain rights when taking office, their right of publicity is not one of them:

"C. Politicians and the Right of Publicity Although politicians rarely bring right of publicity actions, that does not mean they are actually barred from bringing them." Source: BC Law Intellectual Property & Technology Forum & Journal - The Presidential Right of Publicity
 

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Very true. And all these cost time and money so the best thing to do is to stay away from images that may cause potential problems in the future. Always try to get permission and never presume.

I do hope someone creates a new thread quoting sources from appropriate "legal" sites or quoting legal authorities and maybe Rodney can have the thread stickied.

Maybe just a few days from now, someone may come across one of these sites(or other sites) saying that politicians are "fair game". Even if they're just opinions, some people are bound to get the wrong ideas. I have also come across a site that looks like a "legal" site that says some states allows it.
 

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Maybe just a few days from now, someone may come across one of these sites(or other sites) saying that politicians are "fair game". Even if they're just opinions, some people are bound to get the wrong ideas. I have also come across a site that looks like a "legal" site that says some states allows it.
You may be referring to states that do not recognize right of publicity laws. But there are federal laws, such as the Lanham Act, that would be the basis for an infringement lawsuit even in those states. The federal laws trump the state laws.

But your point is well made. There are so many sites with so many opinions and interpretations of the laws. It's impossible to educate everybody though. Unfortunately it's up to each person to do their due diligence.

And while this topic is debated very often on the forum, it's very good that it happens. It means people are trying to learn about the laws rather than just assume what they are doing is legal.
 

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What are some ways I can get permission from celebrities to use their image? Any websites?
In most cases, celebrities have some sort of representation such as a marketing, PR, talent or licensing agency. If you have a particular celebrity in mind, check out their website and see if there is contact info to their rep.
 
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