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Twinge said:
It is [...] free to use if it is [...] made before 1924 (I think that date is correct, could be wrong...)
The date I heard was 31st December, 1922. On the one hand that information could be out of date, and one would expect it to move forward a year per year. 1924 could very well be right. On the other hand governments keep extending copyright duration, and grandfathering in older works (at one stage there was actually a bunch of stuff that went out of copyright, then came back in). At any rate, it's some time in the early 20s.

But... (ah, there's always something... ;)) there are exceptions. In the UK publication of the KJV Bible has to be authorised by the crown. Lily's Latin Grammar has some kind of similar status. More famously the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children has perpetual rights to royalties on Peter Pan performances - this exception is actually written into UK copyright law.
 

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BangBangT-Shirts said:
I have an image of a stormtrooper helmet that I've found through Google, manipulated in photoshop using various tools. Am I not allowed to sell this even though I have made sigfinicant changes to the image (although it still looks like a stormtrooper helmet).
In this case, it's an easy "no" because if it still looks like a storm trooper helmet it will be infringing on Lucasarts copyright - even if you hand-drew it from scratch that would be the case.

If you had photoshopped it into a generic helmet that didn't look like a stormtrooper helmet, it may well still be illegal. There is no provision in copyright law for changing things "just enough" - if any element is at all recognisable as being from the original it could be considered infringement.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
I've also manipulated a 'Mr T' image that I found on Google.
Again, Mr. T isn't fair game.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
I thought that I would be specific about my case seeing as this issue has such a wavy line between wrong and right.
While it's not always clear, it's also not as wavy as people think. The general rule of thumb is "If in doubt, it could get you sued into oblivion." (I think there's also a corollary "If not in doubt, you should be").

BangBangT-Shirts said:
I've seen so many websites that have t-shirts with images of famous people on them. Including users of this forum so I'm hoping that there is at least some way around the law.
Even users on this forum break the law (I'd be lieing if I said I'd never done it), so unfortunately you can't take what they do and don't do as proof of what is or isn't illegal.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
Are there any other good links for finding out if an image has been copyrighted/trademarked?
I don't know of any, but you can be absolutely positive that any big media (i.e. A-Team, Star Wars) is copyrighted.
 

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BangBangT-Shirts said:
I've seen so many websites that have t-shirts with images of famous people on them.
Incidentally, if you're particularly interested in images of famous people, 1) Politicians are fair game, 2) Parody is considered a grey area (but it's nowhere near as protected as people think).
 

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BangBangT-Shirts said:
This site [example] Sells t-shirts with musicians images on them. They credit the owner of the image or photographer on the site. Would they only have to go to that person to get permission to use it on a tee or would they also have to go to the record company or whoever owns the musician's image rights.
Good question... I believe they have to ask both the copyright holder of the photograph, and whoever owns the rights to images of that person. In a lot of cases this will be the same person (as they will have purchased the copyright to particularly sucessful images of that person). To be honest though I'm not 100% certain. I think this is where 'right to publicity' comes into it, which I think Rodney knows a bit more about.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
Do you think this website actually did this or is it likely that they're just breaking the law?
It probably wouldn't be appropriate for me to speculate on which specific sites are or aren't breaking the law, but in general terms some sites are legal and some aren't. The majority are most likely not (but the bigger the site, the more likely it is that they have gone through the proper legal channels).
 

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Ross B said:
if you take someone else's image and mess around with it and manipulate it to fit your own vision of a Tshirt, providing the source image is not obvious, are your actions truly against the spirit of copyright law?
Yes.

Ross B said:
Secondly, however are you going to get "caught" anyway?
That's, of course, an entirely different matter.

The one thing I will say, is that it's surprising how good some people are at recognising infringement. I've seen people look at an image, and point to different elements and say "that's a stock photo from X company, that's from Y company".

I guess if you ran the stats the chances of getting caught are probably quite low - but it's never certain. It's also meant to be beside the point - whether or not you (or I) practice copyright infringement in our own life/business, it's probably not something we should be advocating on a public forum.

Ross B said:
I can't see how manipulating an image to serve your own original artistic vision is any different from many thousands of manipulations of the 12 bar blues format that are all recognised as original works.
Music and visual art clearly aren't the same thing. Besides that... they're not all recognised as original works... that's sort of the point.

12 bar blues format is like the 256 colour palette - it's a medium in which to create something from scratch. You're not meant to take someone's composition and change a few notes, or take someone's image and change a few pixels.
 

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Ross B said:
I wasn't actually asking the question, Solmu - it was rhetorical.
So? Rhetorical questions are only asked because the person doesn't want an answer - not because it's unanswerable. You were making an incorrect assumption, so I was addressing that.

Ross B said:
I was coming from a philosophical angle, not a legal one. I understand your points about copyright law (although I don't think it's anywhere near as black and white as you are insisting - the law rarely is with such matters).
The law is philosophical; it's one of the things that is often under-appreciated about it.

Of course it's not black and white - but it is easier to put it in those terms, and if I am giving advice it needs to be in those terms. Some things are clearly white, some clearly black. You pay a lawyer to separate the grey into further black and white - since I am not a paid lawyer, I have to err with the side of caution and lump the grey in with the black.

Ross B said:
My point, though, is that with many thousands of little Tshirt companies out there, the odds of anyone in the know actually seeing manipulated art in the first place to identify it are very tiny.
There are two prongs to getting caught - one is whether or not your work is identifiable, the other is it then being seen.

So I addressed one - identifyability - by commenting that it's a lot harder to evade that than one might think. The other - being seen - I didn't really address, but implied people may well not be caught (not exactly something I can guarantee ;)).

I agree with you that there are enough small companies out there that the majority of them most likely won't get caught, even if they are operating illegally.

The thing is, there are pretty much two options there - you're small enough to be under the radar (in which case you're not making a success of yourself and might as well not be doing this), or you are big enough to be seen and therefore get caught. Either way, you may as well not break the law. One doesn't pay, the other doesn't pay.

Ross B said:
Not that I'm advocating breaking the copyright laws...
If you're not advocating breaking copyright laws, why are you advocating breaking copyright laws?

Ross B said:
but my ANALOGY between the use of the 12 bar blues structure as a
Your analogy was flawed.

Ross B said:
Similarly, I would argue (philosophically, not legally, although I really do not think the two can always be neatly separated)
We're not here to "argue" semantics because you enjoy an argument, we're here to discuss practical advice on t-shirt selling (and, to a lesser extent, buying).

Ross B said:
I would contend that representational art should not be copyrightable at all.
That's a political contention that has nothing at all to do with these forums.

As it happens, I'm a copyleft advocate and don't approve of the current copyright system - I am not here to defend it and that's not what I was doing - I am here to describe its realities as they currently are. In the event that it changes to match your philosophical ideals, I will describe it in those terms instead.

Ross B said:
Can you copyright craft? I think not.
Another rhetorical question where you are, in fact, wrong. Craft can be copyrighted.


Copyright law is arcane, and our patchwork attempt to modify it (mostly for the sake of big business) has harmed our very development as a society. That's completely beside the point.

If you want to discuss what copyright law should or shouldn't be then start a thread in the lounge ("Is copyright law in need of reform?" for example), and people can choose to engage on that topic if they're interested. But muddying the waters by advocating copyright infringement as practical advice is not helpful.

(as a postscript, your posts would be easier to read if you used the inbuilt quote system instead of copy and pasting text between quote marks)
 

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I chose not to discuss certain points further with you because they had no relevance to actual copyright law (as opposed to opinions on what copyright should or should not cover) and its effects on running a t-shirt business.

I will make that same choice again now, as you have added nothing more of relevance.

Your childish goading does have its intended effect of making me angry, but I don't really see the point in responding in kind.
 
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