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LEGAL: Do I need approval for a particual t-shirt design?? Due to copyrights etc. PLEASE HELP OUT...

2635 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Rodney

I own a clothing label here in the UK which launched about 5 weeks ago now, I launched with 3 t-shirt designs and have currently sold 21, 30 are in shops as S.O.R. and I'm now working on getting more together. The business is slow moving and is only small, for the moment, but we're trying to blow up, like everyone is!, you know the drill. But anyway, to the point...

I'v just come up with this new design but I'm unsure of whether it is safe to release for sale due to the designs content. It features a graphic of a celebrities/actors face and a slogan which uses the title of a movie. I won't say which, but it was a big film from the 80's. Everything is original, no copy and paste jobs but the graphic of the celebs face was first taken from a screenshot in the film and then draw out, scanned in, edited around etc etc.

Basically, I wanted to know if it is okay to release or whether I need to gain approval due to infringement or other legal issues that could potentially end badly for me and the brand if I just went ahead and released it. Know what I mean?

Please let me know your thoughts, it is very much appreciated. Take care, thank you.

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You are asking a legal question which is best answered by an attorney. If I was a betting man I would say you couldn't do it. But ask the experts.
If you want to print Mickey Mouse you need to buy licence from Disney. So maybe for printing actor's face you need a licence too, I'm not sure...
I would agree that you need to consult with legal counsel on that one. The movie title alone may be enough to raise red flags, and almost certainly a celebrity's face will.

Unlike politicians, who are public figures, celebrities sell with their looks, names and skills, that IS their product.

Definitely check with a lawyer before getting yourself in a legal dilemma.
Since this is a legal question, it's best that we steer clear of it. There are plenty of topics that cover copyright and trademark and using famous images in parody that you can find by using the search box at the top of the forum.

The usual recommendations apply:

- Talk to lawyer if you want to do something that you think might be illegal or have a legal question. They will be the ones that can help you and even then, you could still get sued. But at least then, if you get sued and they said it was probably "ok", then at least you have someone that can go to court for you.

- Any "ways around it" advice given in a forum could get you sued. Even if 1000 people tell you it's OK, you could still get sued and have to come up with a lawyer and defend your right to do it.

- Why do you see other people doing it? Here's a good answer that was posted here before:

Solmu said:
The usual story:

  • Some do whatever they want and wait for the cease and desist letter (and hope the company doesn't skip over it)
  • Some can afford lawyers to defend on the basis of parody, etc.
  • Some are in the process of getting sued and losing
  • Some are in the process of getting sued and winning
  • Some are just lucky and not getting caught
  • Some are just lucky and not getting caught... yet
  • Some will plan to settle out of court
  • Some are ignorant of the law and don't realise the world of hurt that is coming
  • Some are carefully staying on the right side of the legal divide
  • Some are carefully staying on the right side of the legal divide, but will be sued anyway, and unable to afford an adequate legal defense even though what they were doing was theoretically legal.

In other words, some are getting away with it, some aren't.
For further reading, check out:

U.S. Copyright Office


copyright related topics at T-Shirt Forums

trademark related topics at T-Shirt Forums
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