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Printing of soundwave with artist name/song title

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 2:44 pm
by SillyPooPooFace

I run a small printing business and plan to create a range of tote bags containing the soundwave of popular songs, with the artist's name and song title underneath. From what I gather, using the soundwave isn't a problem because it is very simplistic, not being detailed enough to reproduce copies of the music.

However, I am unsure as to whether using the artist's name and song title infringes on any copyright or trademark laws.

I have included a sample piece of artwork below for context. I intend to create a whole range of designs covering many famous musicians, print the artwork on tote bags, then sell online.

Thanks in advance for any advice. I am in England, not sure if that has any bearing. Cheers.

Re: Printing of soundwave with artist name/song title

Posted: Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:44 pm
by AndyJ
Hi SillyPooPooFace (possibly one of the more original member names we have on here)

As you correctly identify, the soundwave image has no copyright protection, either in respect of the song or in itself as a simple image. A title of a track or song is unlikely to be registered as a trade mark and so I don't think that causes any problems. The name of the artist may well be a registered trade mark. This could raise the issue of trade mark infringement if the mark was registered in respect of articles like tote bags, since in all probability the artist will be selling merchandise and may well have authorised someone to produce bags etc under licence. And even if the artist's name has not been registered as a trade mark, you face the possiblity of a claim of passing off. Perhaps one of the most relevant cases which involved a passing off claim and a singer was that of Rihanna and Top Shop. It provides a good example of the need for great care.

Although it is arguable that you would be using the artist or band's name descriptively, I think on the balance of probabilities a court would see this as an attempt to exploit the fame of the artist/band, ie it would amount to passing off. You can go some way towards reducing the likelihood of a passing off claim by ensuring that all advertising and any packaging/swing label etc attached to the actual bag carries a prominent disclaimer that these goods are not authorised by or in any way connected to the artist or band featured in the artwork. This is not 100% protection against a claim but better than nothing. This sort of disclaimer will not assist you if there is a registered trade mark involved.

Re: Printing of soundwave with artist name/song title

Posted: Mon Jun 17, 2019 8:56 am
by SillyPooPooFace
HI Andy,

Thanks for your response. That makes it very clear. I don't want to have any legal trouble or create work that's in any sort of grey area, so I think I will pass on creating these products.