Can You Sell T-Shirts With Dead Celebrities On Them?

Can You Sell T-Shirts With Dead Celebrities On Them?

Whether you are a small business owner or are looking to make and sell a couple of shirts locally, there are so many printing options. If you go the celebrity route, you might be curious about the legality of selling a shirt with a celebrity’s face on it. Moreover, what if the celebrity is deceased? Can you sell shirts with dead celebrities on them?

It is possible to sell t-shirts with dead celebrities on them, but getting the permission and authorization to do so can be challenging. Especially as an established business, you cannot simply print t-shirts with dead celebrities’ faces on them and sell them.

Continue reading to learn more about the rules regarding the legality of selling shirts with dead celebrities on them. While it is possible, getting the go-ahead to make such shirts can be much more difficult than doing so with celebrities that are alive. Similar rules apply to selling shirts with living celebrities, but for dead celebrities, there are a few more things to keep in mind.

Can You Sell Shirts With Dead Celebrities On Them?

Yes, you can sell shirts with dead celebrities on them. However, without proper authorization, you can find yourself in legal trouble regarding copyright issues, rights to privacy, and rights to publicity. 

If you are looking to sell shirts with dead celebrities on them, you must understand and abide by the rules. Making sure you do not land yourself in unnecessary trouble is essential both for saving yourself the inconvenience and keeping a sense of decency in regards to the deceased. 

Below are the main factors that can affect whether you can sell shirts with dead celebrities on them. With proper permissions and legitimate authorizations, you can save yourself trouble that can have major effects on your business and your personal, financial situation.

Authorization Restrictions 

While all factors listed are of high importance, gaining the proper authorization to sell shirts with dead celebrities on them is perhaps the main aspect you need clearance for. Of course, the other situations cannot be overlooked, but you must gain permission to use the image and likeness of a celebrity – dead or alive – before making money off of it.

Even if a celebrity is deceased, they might still have agents or an organization that oversees these types of dealings. In this case, you will have to get clearance from a representative to use the image and likeness on merchandise. In some cases, especially if the overseers will be receiving a percentage of the profits for the shirts, you might need clear evidence that the sales will produce a profit.

Claimed Right To Privacy

All people have a right to privacy, though certainly, celebrities give up a large portion of that regarding paparazzi and the like. Still, in serious circumstances, a celebrity and their team can sue businesses for selling shirts with their images on them. In doing this, they claim their right to privacy.

This issue is not always as much of a problem when a dead celebrity is involved, as much of the time, selling shirts with them on it can be a nice homage. Still, based on the wishes of the deceased celebrity as established before their death, their team might be able to sue a business for such actions. This is especially common when the deceased is still bringing in large amounts of money for legal sales after their death.

Right Of Publicity Passed On

One’s right to publicity can play a huge role in the legality of selling shirts with dead celebrities on them. Right to publicity involves a celebrity and their team’s right to monitor the use of their image on merchandise. Depending on the value and popularity of the celebrity, they may be more or less inclined to authorize a business to sell shirts with their image on them.

What can make the situation more difficult is if the deceased celebrity has passed their right of publicity to their surviving relatives, agents, overseers of their estate, etc. If they were an A-list celebrity while they were alive, chances are their merchandise sales could even increase after their death. Still, certain permissions must still be authorized by those in charge.

Risks Of Selling Shirts With Dead Celebrities On Them

If you gain the permission and legal authorization to sell shirts with dead celebrities on them, you are in the clear. On the other hand, trying to do so without receiving such authorizations is illegal.

The popularity of the celebrity is only a factor if you are nearing a negotiation resulting in the authorization. If a celebrity is famous enough to have a legal team – even if they are deceased – trying to use their image on merchandise is not permissible without a contract.

Failure to comply with the legal rules of selling shirts with dead celebrities on them can result in you and/or your business losing huge amounts of money through cases between a deceased celebrity’s legal team. Trying to find loopholes will only result in more problems.


Selling shirts with the image of a deceased celebrity can be an excellent way to remember such impactful people. Similarly, it can be a nice addition to the merchandise of your business. However, you cannot sell shirts with dead celebrities on them without proper permission and legal authorization in the form of contracts.

If you want to avoid potential legal issues, we recommend looking into commercially approved pre-made t-shirt templates. One of the largest websites providing these templates is called, and they ahem over 90,000+ templates in total to choose from.