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Is A Simple, Plain Shirt Copyrighted?

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 8:27 pm    Post subject: Is A Simple, Plain Shirt Copyrighted? Reply with quote

Is A Simple, Plain Shirt Copyrighted? Could I upload a video of myself wearing a simple, plain shirt, (and all the other content in the video was either my content or public domain content) to YouTube without infringing copyright? I am in the UK.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi keith

For a number of reasons you have no need to worry about copyright or any other IP right.

A shirt is most unlikely to qualify for copyright protection in the first place unless it could be considered a work of artistic craftsmanship. So if the shirt was decorated by hand by someone who intended the finished garment to be an artistic work, then that might qualify it for copyright protection. However even if a shirt did have such protection (and obviously your plain shirt wouldn't qualify), merely wearing the shirt would not amount to copying, even if theoretically the shirt was 'copied' in the creation of a digital file which you uploaded to Youtube. This is because manufactured goods generally don't qualify for copyright protection, because otherwise we would end up in the ridiculous situation that every picture or selfie of a clothed person or of an object like a car or a piece of furniture*, would amount to infringement. And even if that was not the case, there would be a justified defence of incidental inclusion. Clearly you have to wear something when you appear in the video (I'm assuming this is necessary!) and so the shirt is merely performing its normal task, just like tables and chairs do in Eastenders or any other TV program or film.

There are two other kinds of intellectual property which might just be protected in a shirt, although neither actually applies in your case. The first is if the trade mark of the manufacturer is visible on the clothing, for instance on a Nike tee shirt or a La Coste sports shirt. The logo of the company will probably be visible if one of these shirts was worn in a video (that's their purpose) but that would not amount to infringement of a registered trade mark for two reasons, namely the mark was not being dispalyed for the purposes of trade and secondly no-one would be confused as to origin of the goods so portrayed. The second IP right which could apply to clothing is if the actual design of the shirt was registered. Design right protects a novel design (ie its shape and appearance) of a product or a significant part of a product. This protection prevents someone else from making an article to the same design, but it does not prevent anyone from just wearing or using the product itself. Due to the high turnover of designs in the fashion business, few designs are ever registered, and most of those which are tend to concern the surface decoration, that is to say things like the colours or pattern on the fabric, rather than the actual form or construction of the garment since this is rarely novel enough to qualify as original.

I hope that sets your mind at rest.

* A recent change in the law now means that certain iconic pieces of furniture or other similar items can now be protected in the same way as works of artistic craftsmanship, even if they have been made by an industrial process. Although we have not had any test cases on this yet, it is expected that the threshold for what will qualify for this protection will be very high, and the item concerned will have to display exceptional aesthetic qualities.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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