Creating and selling designs on printed clothing is easier than ever with a host of different tools available to use. But with issues of copyright infringement on many people’s mind, it can be difficult to know what you can print while avoiding any potential legal risks. Often, designers are in the dark about what copyright laws entail and what they’re able to use without getting into a dispute. The following information will help you get clear on what copyright means when it comes to printing clothes.
What is copyright?
Copyright refers to the proprietorship of a piece of work. This means that the individual or the company owns the right to the distribution, commercialisation and profit to it. So, for example, if a design is copyrighted you can’t then upload it to your t-shirt and sell it, as only the owner of the design has the right to do that. When it comes to creating any piece of work, not just designs, it’s best to stick to your own ideas.
When creating a t-shirt or clothing design, logos, pictures of artwork, characters from films or books, viral content like memes or YouTube videos and images from the internet are all off limits. Even celebrities can be exploited, even if you created original content. But, don’t get disheartened – there are still plenty of options for creating a great design that’s unique to you.
Trademarking differs to copyright in the sense that trademarking refers to your intellectual property. So, anything that is central to your business, such as your company logo, brand name, slogan or marketing materials would be trademarked. You would then copyright your designs and products to protect others from stealing your ideas.
What can be put on a t-shirt?
Any work that is under public domain can be used without the need for permission from the creator, along with royalty-free images that are fine for commercial use and any designs that you have created yourself, of course. Public domain refers to creative materials that aren’t protected under copyright law, so content that is either donated, expired copyright content or content that has been forfeited in some way.
Quotes are also a tricky area, so stick to anything that is a common saying, parodies, sayings that are too short to be protected by copyright law, quotes from authors who have been dead for over 70 years or your own thoughts or sayings. But it’s best to avoid anything from a living author, trademarked materials, corporate slogans or scripted or literary works of art, as these are likely to be copyrighted.
Copyright law may seem daunting and confusing, but it’s important to get to grips with the basics in order to protect yourself from a legal dispute and also to protect your own designs for printed t-shirts from theft from other creators. Provided you’re creating something original and new, then you’re good to get started printing your designs onto clothing for a customised, bespoke and, most importantly, unique product.