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hi all. I am posting because I have a question about using local politicians and opponents names on t-shirts. I am based in maryland was going to make shirts that are pro each candidate for the upcoming elections. The front of each shirt will say the candidates last name, and on the back it will say some sort of positive slogan such as "he's our guy" etc...
I have looked for statutes in maryland and there aren't actually any that acknowledge a right to publicity for anyone, we're one of the few states. Anyhow, by using the names of candidates, as they are either current or former politicians, am I liable for any lawsuits? I have it from a good source that at least one of the campaigns knows about one of my shirts and won't OFFICIALLY endorse it, but they did not say to not print them. Also looking to do beer coozies and stickers. Probably going to speak to attorney, but wanted to get others perspectives first. Was also going to post a little disclaimer stating that we are in no way affiliated with either campaign, and no product is officially endorsed by either campaign. Not looking for legal advice, but just a little insight. Muchas Gracias.
 

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Not sure if I had to specify, but yes this will be for my own personal profit. Thanks.
commercial gain may make much difference. But why don't you try contact each candidate? for all you know they will be more than willing to grant you permission to print and sell them. After all, pre-election is publicity and your shirts will give them free publicity.
 

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The front of each shirt will say the candidates last name, and on the back it will say some sort of positive slogan such as "he's our guy" etc...
I have looked for statutes in maryland and there aren't actually any that acknowledge a right to publicity for anyone, we're one of the few states. Anyhow, by using the names of candidates, as they are either current or former politicians, am I liable for any lawsuits?
Politicians do not give up their right to publicity when they run for office or when elected to office, since your talking about positive slogans for both sides I doubt you'd run into any problems but be aware the potential is there if they would choose to take legal action.

That said, most politicians don't sue even when portrayed in a bad light, they don't want the bad press that may accompany such a suit, or low public opinion of their actions....still it would be a good idea to try to get their permission and talk to a lawyer to have all your bases covered.

Hope this helps.
 

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Politicians do not give up their right to publicity when they run for office or when elected to office
Actually, I think the opposite may be true.

In the United States, elected officials do not have the same right to publicity as other citizens (at least that's what I remember reading).
 

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Actually, I think the opposite may be true.

In the United States, elected officials do not have the same right to publicity as other citizens (at least that's what I remember reading).
Although you could be right, I'm only quoting what I have read our resident expert Tim (Kimura-mma) say.

Post #32

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/general-t-shirt-selling-discussion/t50636.html

Post #4

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/general-t-shirt-selling-discussion/t116471.html

That's all I can find at the moment, my search abilities are suffering today LOL!
 

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Interesting. I may have been misinformed all these years.

I went looking for some third party verification and found this link:

BC Law Intellectual Property & Technology Forum & Journal - The Presidential Right of Publicity

Sean T. Masson said:
Although politicians rarely bring right of publicity actions, that does not mean they are actually barred from bringing them.
However, I also saw this one where Arnold Schwarzenegger sued a company for making bobblehead dolls with his image.

The case was "settled", but it probably cost both parties some monies to lawyers, so that should definitely be taken into account:

Schwarzenegger Bobblehead Case: First Amendment or Right of Publicity. FindLa...
 

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Actually, I think the opposite may be true.

In the United States, elected officials do not have the same right to publicity as other citizens (at least that's what I remember reading).
Elected officials give up some of their rights, but certainly not all of them. They can definitely protect how their image is used, especially when it's used for commercial purposes.

Many politicians choose not to pursue legal action, so there really is not a lot of legal precedence. And the ones that do bring legal action usually settle out of court, so again there's not much precedence set in terms of a judge rendering a decision. The lack of action and precedence has led to the common misconception that using an elected officials name and likeness is legal without the risk of recourse. But that's not the case.

I remember reading some good articles about it. I'll try to find them and post them.
 

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Yes! Good find, Rodney. This is exactly the one I was thinking of.

It's long, but this section in particular is one worth sharing on the forums, since this topic does come up often enough...
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. Perhaps one explanation for the infrequency is that “Most politicians just let this kind of thing slide, [. . .] for public relations issues.”[18]​

 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks everyone. Everyone just verified what I assumed to be the case. I had always thought that it would be protected, but was just double checking. I am going to press forward and do it anyways, haha, as I have everything under a company name so there will be nothing to come after in terms of my personal finances. When they stated they absolutely DO NOT endorse my shirt, it's because when you endorse one, you have to endorse everything. They are pro-candidate shirts, and not malicious in any way. I understand their right and want to protect their branding, as it is something they work their butts off to get out there and craft. I'll see how it goes, cover my butt with an llc or the like, and just keep my head down. Since most politicians are lawyers, I'm sure the first thing I will receive is a cease and desist. The campaign only lasts for another 3 months, so there is no way they would want to pursue this in court.
 

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I would think it would be bad publicity for them to sue you for making a shirt that was positive towards their campaign regardless if it was authorized or not.
 

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However, I also saw this one where Arnold Schwarzenegger sued a company for making bobblehead dolls with his image.

The case was "settled", but it probably cost both parties some monies to lawyers, so that should definitely be taken into account:

Schwarzenegger Bobblehead Case: First Amendment or Right of Publicity. FindLa...
Actually this topic was covered here on TSF awhile back.

Post #18 for Tim's response

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/general-t-shirt-selling-discussion/t121005.html

But as always stated it's a good idea to talk to an attorney before proceeding in this area, we are a sue happy nation and the cost to defend yourself could out-weigh any possible profit made.

(On a side note rule #1 of most forums is you never argue with the admin!):)

Hope this helps.
 

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My only question is how easy it will it be to find supporters enthusiastic enough that would buy them. The real hard core group are probably volunteers and get freebies from the campaign.

Why not make some interesting designs and try and sell them directly to the campaigns themselves?
 

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I am going to press forward and do it anyways, haha, as I have everything under a company name so there will be nothing to come after in terms of my personal finances
I wouldn't assume that to be true. Even corporate veils can be lifted.

Also worth noting is that sometimes lawyers skip the cease and desist and go straight to suing for (or demanding) damages.

I wouldn't recommend anyone "just going for it" based on anything they read here. Best to get paid legal advice :)

IYFGraphics said:
(On a side note rule #1 of most forums is you never argue with the admin!):)
I'm definitely not always right...I always learn new things from this place! :)
 

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My only question is how easy it will it be to find supporters enthusiastic enough that would buy them. The real hard core group are probably volunteers and get freebies from the campaign.

Why not make some interesting designs and try and sell them directly to the campaigns themselves?
Excellent point, most campaigns do get donated printed shirts by one of their supporters, I guess there's the "general public" to sell to but then again they could get free shirts from the candidate just for asking or being at a rally.

JMHO
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Well, I'm appealing to a sports base that is also a fan of the candidates. I'm not infringing ontheir trademarks, just something the fan base does. I don't need the politicians to approve it, many people have seen the designs and are going crazy for them.
 

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as I have everything under a company name so there will be nothing to come after in terms of my personal finances.
You should definitely consult an attorney about this. I'm pretty sure you can be held personally liable for participating in an infringement even if you are acting on behalf of a business entity. Especially if it's a small business and you are one of only a few officers of the company.

You may still find that the rewards outweigh the risks, but it's a dangerous assumption to believe your personal assets are safe.
 
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