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Hello,

I'd like to print some tshirts with football players' names on them.

So it would for example say "10 NEYMAR".

Is that breaking any copyright rules?
In US sports, when players sign their contracts they are bound by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and players association. The CBA includes merchandising rights of team logos and player names and likenesses. So typically, it requires a licensed to reproduce player names on salable merchandise.

I don't follow international football or soccer. So I'm not sure how the licenses and merchandising works. But I'm pretty sure Adidas is the major player. It's probably a good idea to do some research before printing any unlicensed football gear.
 

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In US sports, when players sign their contracts they are bound by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and players association. The CBA includes merchandising rights of team logos and player names and likenesses. So typically, it requires a licensed to reproduce player names on salable merchandise.

I don't follow international football or soccer. So I'm not sure how the licenses and merchandising works. But I'm pretty sure Adidas is the major player. It's probably a good idea to do some research before printing any unlicensed football gear.
You can license appearances, but you can't license names as Dolby Labs v. Dolby has decided. To license a last name in the manner you suggest would be ridiculous, and have an undue impact on all sports. I'm sure there's someone out there with the last name of Smith or Johnson, and one of them prolly has a number 3 or 7 or 11. The logical conclusion of your argument is that a kid playing hockey with the last name of Smith would be violating copyright if he used his name on his hockey jersey with the number 3, or 7, or 11. As an example: [media]https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/0/6623820/il_570xN.298164672.jpg[/media]

So long as no logos, official team names, are used, then you can do a jersey with a last name and a number.

[and, yes, I am a lawyer who's worked in IP.]
 

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You can license appearances, but you can't license names as Dolby Labs v. Dolby has decided. To license a last name in the manner you suggest would be ridiculous, and have an undue impact on all sports. I'm sure there's someone out there with the last name of Smith or Johnson, and one of them prolly has a number 3 or 7 or 11. The logical conclusion of your argument is that a kid playing hockey with the last name of Smith would be violating copyright if he used his name on his hockey jersey with the number 3, or 7, or 11. As an example: [media]https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/0/6623820/il_570xN.298164672.jpg[/media]
So long as no logos, official team names, are used, then you can do a jersey with a last name and a number.

[and, yes, I am a lawyer who's worked in IP.]
Apples and oranges, in my opinion.

If you are creating uniforms for sports teams, it's obviously ok to put their names and numbers on shirts. It's also ok to use pro athletes names and numbers for customers who supply their own jersey. If you are selling the jersey and doing the name and numbers, you're probably supposed to be an authorized dealer, but I'm not sure who's really paying attention to these cases.

But to create player-related merchandise without license or permission would be a legal issue.

So to clarify my position...
Names and numbers on the backs of jerseys would be different than creating an original design using a player's name or likeness. The former would be ok. The latter would require a license.
 

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This is true.

But people's names and likenesses are actually protected under a civil rights called Right of Publicity. These rights protect against the unauthorized use of names and likenesses on merchandise.
By likeness, it explicitly means their physical likeness, i.e., images of their face and body; by name, it means the _whole name_. So, you couldn't put a picture of Nathan Fillion on a jersey, with the name, "Nathan Fillion" and a number, cos that would violate copyright. However, you could just put "Fillion" and a number, cos there are thousands of Fillions in the world, and who knows if you mean Nathan Fillion, or not. That's where the line is drawn.

And, the Right of Privacy that you're speaking about, is not part of copyright, and in fact, isn't recognized much in either in statutory or common law. Right of Privacy is specifically read into the First Amendment, and has to do with things like sex, birth control, and right to control dissemination of your private information. This has come up most recently in civil liberties cases in the case of unauthorized wire tapping. It has absolutely nothing to do with copyright.
 

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However, you could just put "Fillion" and a number, cos there are thousands of Fillions in the world, and who knows if you mean Nathan Fillion, or not. That's where the line is drawn.
Assuming the shirt was on a website by itself, I would agree.

But if you had a collection of shirts that said ROONEY 10, GIGGS 11 and VAN PERSIE 20, then it would be obvious what you are trying to do. And it wouldn't be hard for Manchester United to claim infringement or passing off.

And, the Right of Privacy that you're speaking about, is not part of copyright, and in fact, isn't recognized much in either in statutory or common law. Right of Privacy is specifically read into the First Amendment, and has to do with things like sex, birth control, and right to control dissemination of your private information. This has come up most recently in civil liberties cases in the case of unauthorized wire tapping. It has absolutely nothing to do with copyright.
I didn't say anything about Right of Privacy. I said Right of Publicity. Totally separate laws...

Personality rights - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

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Assuming the shirt was on a website by itself, I would agree.

But if you had a collection of shirts that said ROONEY 10, GIGGS 11 and VAN PERSIE 20, then it would be obvious what you are trying to do. And it wouldn't be hard for Manchester United to claim infringement or passing off.


I didn't say anything about Right of Privacy. I said Right of Publicity. Totally separate laws...

Personality rights - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I would agree then, re the whole team. That's overstepping the lines. An individual fine; a whole team and it's over the line.

And, I read that wrong, you're right about the publicity. I read that as privacy. My bad.
 

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The English teams don't have their players names registered as copyright or trade marks. As a rule they have no right to register the city they represent either. You can use 'Manchester' on a red shirt along with a players name and number, but you can't use 'Manchester United' or the club crest.

In the UK there is no right to register ones own image. Copyright rests with the photographer or artist ( or whoever commissioned the work). Nor can you register single words in common usage, unless they are spelled in a particular way or written in a distinctive font (effectively forming a logo). So if you want to print 'Rooney' in 'Verdana' then fill your boots.
If their is no infringement in the home market then I can't see anybody pursuing the case in a secondary territory.
 

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I'm sure Nike and/or Adidas is paying premium dollars for licensing rights to Barclay's league and team merchandise. Wouldn't the league have a vested interest in managing the usage to maximize the value of the licensing? What I mean is... if anyone can produce unlicensed goods without penalty, that would severely diminish the value of the licensed property.
 

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I'm sure Nike and/or Adidas is paying premium dollars for licensing rights to Barclay's league and team merchandise. Wouldn't the league have a vested interest in managing the usage to maximize the value of the licensing? What I mean is... if anyone can produce unlicensed goods without penalty, that would severely diminish the value of the licensed property.
So long as you're not using the team name/logo of whatever sports-ball team Barclay plays for, how does that diminish licensing rights? If you just put "Barclay" on a jersey with a number, and that's it, what licensing does that cross?
 

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So long as you're not using the team name/logo of whatever sports-ball team Barclay plays for, how does that diminish licensing rights? If you just put "Barclay" on a jersey with a number, and that's it, what licensing does that cross?
"Barclay's" is the title sponsor of the English Premier League (the major football/soccer league in the UK).

I assume you're in the US, so I'll use a better example. Several years ago, the NFL scaled back their apparel licensees from 100+ to about a dozen. The purpose was to make it more exclusive and therefore more valuable for the manufacturers who can afford it. Due to that exclusivity, an NFL apparel license now costs $100,000 a year plus royalties. That is more than double any other major sports license. Several major colleges, such as Notre Dame, Ohio State and Texas have adopted similar exclusivity models to maximize the value of their licensed properties. This business is a multi-billion dollar industry. So if the NFL stood by and let people create unlicensed Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers gear, that would completely go against the purpose of the licensing business model. Even if a generic RODGERS 12 shirt avoids trademark infringement because no logos are being used, it still fuels the negotiation between licensees and licensors as to the value of the property. If Nike knows that the NFL is allowing unlicensed gear, they will use that to negotiate a lower licensing fee. And yes, stuff like this does happen. It's an extremely competitive business. And suppliers try to gain every edge they can. Which is why the leagues (who manage the properties under most CBA's) take legal action every chance they get.
 

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They can't license something that is not able to be licensed. A simple red t-shirt with a name and number is not the same as an obviously fake replica shirt.
Nike,Adidas, Barcleys all have their trademarks that are protected by law as do the clubs (under their full name). If you were to use them in the UK then that would be an infringement.
There is pretty strong brand recognition towards the teams in the UK, and most people are aware of what is official merchandise or not. If it is obviously not official merchandise then there is no passing off. Without the registered names or marks there is little case to answer, in the UK.
 

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Being I'm not a fan of any sports-ball, I find your argument unpersuasive, honestly, cos frankly, I couldn't care less about how much its costs for any organization to do anything with sports-ball.

I can't speak for the UK, cos UK has bizarre copyright laws, but in the US, if an organization tried to go after some guy that put "Peterson" and the number [X] on a shirt and nothing else, and only that shirt, they'd be laughed out of court. It's so prima facie not violative of copyright, that you could even prolly get what are called Rule 11 sanctions against the attorneys, which can be pretty harsh, namely all attorney fees, court costs, and even punitive fines, attorney disciplinary action, permanent record on the attorney's registration, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks guys. Very much appreciated the help.

I'm not intending on launching a whole clothing line with teams, but rather a few single shirts from well known players. It doesn't seem like that will be breaking any laws.

I'm located in the UK.
 

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The relevant 'passing off' legislation revolves mainly around 'confusion' and 'deception'. If a member of the public is likely to think the article is official, or you tell them it is then you are in trouble. This does not however extend to 'A moron in a hurry' (real term - I [email protected]@@ you not). It basically means that the buyer has to spend an amount of time examining the goods with a due level of common sense.
Also you cannot imply that the product is endorsed by the player.
Steer clear of brand names and trademarks and you should be ok. Don't even use any trade marks in your advertising or sales pater as this may still get you in hot water.

Always check for any trademarks with the UK patent office.
Check online for more info (google, wikipedia etc).

Like I said before town names (Manchester) are ok, club names (Manchester United, MUFC) are not. Also check what the FA has registered- avoid tudor roses!
 

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In America, if you use any last name in coordination with the color combo of the team or the player's number, you are violating the licensing rights of the PA. For example in the NFL, if you use KAEPERNICK #7, you would be violating his rights and the NFLPA would take you to court for it. They have sent out countless of cease and desist letters, and if I'm not mistaken they have taken people to court and won.
 
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