When starting a t-shirt business you might come across confusing legal issues. The legalities of business can’t be over looked. A lot of the legal info you find while conducting your research might seem confusing, so we’re gonna break some of it down so it’s easier to understand. Make sure you know your stuff before you get into legal trouble!
Copyright and trademarks- A copyright is the right to copy and gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, financially benefit from it, and other related rights. A trademark is a type of intellectual property, and typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements. You should copyright your t-shirt designs and trademark your label name to protect them legally. But, don’t worry about copyright and trademark too early. Until your work is being widely purchased or distributed, copyright may not even be necessary to launch your t-shirt business.
Images from the internet- Don’t use ’em without permission. Images from the internet are copyright, unless you took them, in which case you own the copyright. There are ways of beating the system though: If you use a basic, generic picture, for example, one of a dog, you’d probably get away with it in some cases. Is there is nothing peculiar about the picture you use and it looks like something you could very well have taken, most likely the copyright holder won’t really be able to distinguish the image and wouldn’t waste time trying to hunt you down. On the other hand if you use a picture that’s very specific or complex, for example, a picture of a white pit-bull with black spots wearing a football helmet, you’ll get caught easily.
Famous quotes- When using quotes in t-shirt designs you should quote the person who originally said it. Don’t pretend like you made it up. Just give them their credit, even if it’s in super tiny print. You definitely wouldn’t like it if you said something funny one day and saw it on a bunch of t-shirts the next, without any recognition for it.
Popular characters- Never use them unless you have a license to do so. Just make up your own characters or get someone else to. Simple as that. Using popular characters in an attempt to sell quick is just plain lazy and uncreative.
Writing and signing contracts- Learn the ins and outs of contracts before writing or signing them or you’ll get screwed. Also, don’t sign a contract for anything until you’ve weighed out the options of having the contract signed or not, as well as how you’d feel about your decision to sign when a few months go by. Find some sample contracts online or in books so you get an idea of how they should be formatted.
Parodying familiar figures and icons- It’s allowed thanks to the right to parody. Just don’t get too crazy with it. When your parodying becomes overly offensive you may get attacked and or kidnapped by the entourage of figure you’re parodying. Just beware.
Political figures- In most cases they can be used. It’s no wonder there are so many political t-shirts on the market. The only situation you wouldn’t be safe using them is if you find a famous photo of a political figure. The photo would most likely be recognized as x photographer’s famous photo, so you’d be in hot water. In addition to political figures you can also use flags, coat of arms, and national symbols.