When starting a t-shirt business, there are many things to consider. What type of shirts will you sell? Who is your target market? How will you produce and distribute your clothing? And most importantly, is it legal to use licensed characters on shirts?
You can legally sell t-shirts with licensed characters as long as you have permission from the copyright holder. Otherwise, you could face legal penalties. To avoid any trouble, be sure to get written permission from the copyright holder before printing your shirts.
There are many things to consider when it comes to selling shirts with copyrighted material, and it’s not always as simple as putting a logo on a shirt and calling it good. In this blog post, we will explore the legality of selling shirts with licensed characters and give you some tips on how to make sure your business stays within the bounds of the law. So, let’s jump right in.
Can I Sell a Shirt With a Character On It?
If you’re a fan of licensed characters, you know that there’s nothing quite like wearing a shirt with your favorite character on it. Whether it’s a superhero, cartoon character, or movie star, wearing a shirt with their face on it is a great way to show your fandom.
It’s even more fulfilling if you get into the business of selling shirts with licensed characters on them. In this kind of set-up, you’re not only able to celebrate your favorite character by wearing their shirt but also earn money in the process.
But before jumping right into this kind of business, it’s essential to know what the law states about selling shirts with licensed characters on them. The last thing you want is to get sued for copyright infringement just because you didn’t know any better. So, can you sell shirts with licensed characters?
You can only sell shirts with licensed characters if you get the rights to use the images from the copyright holder. If you don’t get permission, selling shirts with these licensed characters will be considered copyright infringement.
However, creating fan art isn’t illegal. Confusing, right? Fan art is a way to create your own characters based on an existing world, but they don’t have to be exact replicas of the copyrighted images. You can use them as inspiration and turn them into something new that doesn’t infringe on copyrights.
As long as you’re doing this without selling your fan art, you’re on the right side of the law. The problem comes in when you sell your design.
You see, your fan projects can hurt the sales of officially sanctioned and licensed merchandise. Therefore, it’s best to avoid selling fan art or original images altogether if you don’t have permission from the copyright holder.
Source: Wasted Talent Inc
How to Safely Sell Shirts with Licensed Characters
The safest way to sell shirts with licensed characters is by getting permission from the copyright holder. But, as you might have guessed, this can be challenging.
You’ll likely need to jump through many hoops before you get any kind of answer at all, and even then, it could be a straight-up no.
So, what do you do? Do you quit your dreams of selling shirts with licensed characters? Not necessarily. There are several things you can do to ensure the images you’re printing on your shirts won’t land you in legal trouble. These include:
Follow Fair Use Guidelines
Fair use protects your right to sell shirts with licensed characters if you’re using them for news, criticism, research or parody. Under fair use guidelines, a company can’t sue you as long as your use of their copyrighted character does not affect the demand for the original work itself.
However, if your shirt business doesn’t fall under the fair use category, then you’re going to have a hard time using copyrighted material. In this case, you’ll need to get permission from the copyright owner or use an unlicensed character.
Purchase Licensed Images
If you really want to use a specific image, you should purchase the rights from its owner. First, contact the company and ask about their licensing requirements for images. Then, follow those guidelines accordingly so you won’t be infringing on any rights when you start selling your shirts.
Use Unlicensed Characters
There are several unlicensed characters that you can use for your shirt designs without having to worry about any legal ramifications. Just be sure to do your research before settling on a specific character or image. You’ll want to ensure that the character is in the public domain or is otherwise available for commercial use.
Go for Creative Commons Licensed Images
Creative Commons is a system that allows content creators to share their work with others while still retaining certain rights. If you use a Creative Commons licensed image, follow the license agreement carefully. Most licenses require that you give credit to the creator of the image, and some may not allow use for commercial purposes.
Therefore, ensure you read the fine print!
Check the Angel Policy of the Image
You’ll also want to find out if there are any limitations on how you can use a licensed image. This is particularly important for pictures of popular cartoon characters that have been used in merchandise, including greeting cards, toys, and t-shirts. These restrictions are known as an “Angel Policy” and may include limits on quantity, types of products, and geographical areas where the image can be sold.
Source: Grace Dobush
Starting a business is already hard enough. You don’t need to make it harder on yourself by infringing on another company’s intellectual property. By doing your due diligence and ensuring that you’re using images legally, you can avoid any potential headaches down the road.
If your goal is to create shirts with licensed characters, do the heavy lifting and get permission from the copyright holder. It may take a little more time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end.
However, if you’re flexible with the designs, it’s best to avoid using copyrighted characters altogether. There are plenty of other designs, pre-made t-shirt design templates, and images to choose from that won’t get you in trouble with the law. Not to mention, taking this route will be way more affordable.