Copyrighting t-shirt/merchandise

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Copyrighting t-shirt/merchandise

Post by Almost-Blink182 »

Me and a team of designers and developers have built a online store which sells funny t-shirt that has some faces on it that are widely used on the internet but own no copyright or trademarks.

Is there anyway we can copyright them OR copyright the t-shirts with them on?

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Post by AndyJ »

Hi AB182,
If the artwork is not your own creation then you have no entitlement to copyright for it. However if you have taken some 'inspiration' from other artwork you have seen on the internet and added a reasonable amount of extra artistic effort and creative skill to produce something which is substantially your own work then you may be entitled to claim copyright in your work. You do not need to do anything to get copyright, it happens automatically when you create an artistic work. However in order to prove at some later stage that you originated your work at a certain point in time, you can register your work by lodging a sealed and dated envelope containing the artwork with a solicitor, or with a commercial copyright registration service.

The most expensive option would be to register the whole design (ie the tee-shirt bearing the artwork) with the government's Intellectual Property Office, but at £40 for the first design and £20 per extra design, for a 10 year period (it can be renewed) this is not necessarily economic if the protection only needs to last for a shorter period.

A word of warning about things that you find on the internet. Although there may be no clear indication that something is covered by copyright (or indeed by Registered Design Right) that doesn't mean no copyright exists. Somebody must have created the original design and unless they died at least 70 years ago or created the work in one of the very few countries in the world with which Britain does not have reciprocal copyright arrangements, chances are that someone does own the copyright, even if they have not not been able to enforce it.
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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