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Discussion Starter #1
Is there an easy way to find out if an idea has been copyrighted? I've come up with some catchy designs or plays on words and I just wanted to be able to know if someone else has the rights to it. Obviously, if I can find it out there it is most likely copyrighted already, but I don't think that is due diligence. I want to be certain I am not setting myself up for a lawsuit before I tried selling anything.

Or would I just figure this out when I tried to copyright it?
 

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"Ideas" are not eligible to be copyrighted. "Designs" are technically copyrighted once they are in fixed form. But they also can be officially registered with the US Copyright office, so you can search the site to find info on existing copyrights. When a design is copyrighted, only the exact design is protected. A similar concept can be designed differently and that would be legal.

Regarding "plays on words," taglines, phrases, slogans, etc, are not eligible for copyright. They can be trademarked, but it is considered difficult to register words for use on t-shirts unless it is the brand name or specifically used in the marketing of the brand.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I just read some other post where a guy was asking about "Team Edward" and other twilight tag lines. From what others were saying, it was copyrighted. Unless I am mistaken. It was that post that got me thinking about this. I understand the idea of doing a parody of something, and how that is essentially ok. Since much of my designs are parodies, I researched that a while back. I mainly just need to make sure nobody came up with the ideas first...
 

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"Team Edward" is actually trademarked, not copyrighted. Big difference between the two. If you are looking to toe the line of infringement, you are better off avoiding trademarks if you can.

Parody is a bit more complex than simply being "essentially ok." When you create parody artwork, the IP owner definitely has the right to sue. In court, you can defend yourself on the basis of parody. It will then be up to the judge to decide who wins.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yeah, that is what I gathered before. Which sucks because you really don't know what you're getting into unless you actually get permission to do a parody of that companies work or logo.

I heard a while back about a guy getting sued by Northface for creating a successful company called Southbutt...
 
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