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Discussion Starter #1
I am wondering if anyone has any knowledge on copyright issues with custom t-shirt designs. For example can you mention names of copyright movies or bands? Can you mention famous quotes from movies? Does parody affect the legality of a copyright? For example if you wanted to make a parody t-shirt of a famous band, would it still be illegal?

Tom
 

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The short answer: No.

Parody isn't as protected by copyright as you might think; if you're profiting off it and/or if it is defamatory then you're not really in the clear. They probably won't find you or care, but in most cases it is not really legal.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Can you use a persons name? Or is a celebrity name off limits as well? I heard the guy who makes the "I ****** Gisele" shirts was sued.
 

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Hmmm, so I guess it's a matter of who you upset. A cease & desist order doesn't mean it's illegal necessarily, but the problem is the celebrities generally have deeper pockets. I wonder if there has been any past legal cases regarding parody's of trademarks or celebrity names.

How in the heck does SNL get away with mocking anything in sight and profiting from it?
 

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I did some reading a while back about celebrity copyrights. You can't use their picture unless it's in a news story, like in a newspaper or tabloid. But you can use elected politicians all you want for free and without permission. I'm guessing the same law applies to their name as their picture. But maybe you could get away with it by using only the first name. I think think you probably need permission to do product parodies. I think Wacky Packages got permission. I know for a fact that Weird Al Yankovic has to get permission for every song parody. I would love to do product parodies and use celebrities too, but I have lots of ideas without resorting to that anyway.
 

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You can't use a celebrities name or likeness on any merchandise without permission.

It's called the "right to publicity". Meaning, the celebrity (or whoever actually) has the right to decide how their image and name is used commercially.

As posted above, politicians are exempt from this "right to publicity" rule for some reason. That's why people can get away with selling Arnold Schwartzenegger t-shirts (as long as they are related to him being governor of California).

How in the heck does SNL get away with mocking anything in sight and profiting from it?
It could be that he has permission or it could be that they already went through a legal process and had a precident set. Or, it could be that since SNL is so big, it's almost extra PR for a celebrity to be featured or parodied there. No way to tell without talking to SNL I guess :)
 

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I also wonder about Mad Magazine. They do parodies or satires or whatever all the time and they say that the people in their magazine have no relation to any living people bla bla bla. I wonder how they get away with that silly ploy.
 

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I wonder if the "line" is "merchandise for sale". Mad Magazine and SNL don't sell parody "products", they publish a form of media.

Maybe where they draw the line is making products for sale with the parody or likeness.
 

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If you search Michael Jackson on Ebay, you get about a thousand t-shirts with his name and face. Are these people getting in trouble? Also, what defines a celebrity, are we celebrities because we sale t-shirts?
 

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If you search Michael Jackson on Ebay, you get about a thousand t-shirts with his name and face. Are these people getting in trouble? Also, what defines a celebrity, are we celebrities because we sale t-shirts?
Actually, the "right to publicity" applies to everyone...not just celebrities. So noone can use your likeness or name on products for sale without your permission.

You'll probably want to talk to a lawyer if you want detailed answers as to why some people get away with breaking the law and others don't :)

But if Michael Jackson or his "estate" contacted eBay to tell them to remove the items, they would have to.

If you have a copyright or trademark, eBay is very good at making sure your rights are protected. You can have an auction closed if it is violating your trademark.
 
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