The Basics of Copyright Law in Custom T-shirt Designing

Being a graphic designer, you must have heard about copyright laws for sure. And if you are running a custom t-shirts business or are supposed to design them then learning every detail of copyright law is almost mandatory for you. In case you don’t, you might get involved in a case of infringement unknowingly and end up defending yourself in a courtroom. Well, to avoid all this chaos you shall already dig deep into the laws of copyrights that apply to custom t-shirt designing before getting into any such job or business. To help you through this and let you know the real basics of copyright law in custom t-shirt designing, I have put together a nice collaboration of all the significant information.


What Is Copyright Law? –


This law is all about restricting the rights of each intellectual property to its owner. To say this in simpler words, the law enforces that only the owner of an intellectual property owns its legal rights and possess the eligibility to either keep those rights restricted or sell them to any party or organization for a certain period or a lifetime. Each intellectual property, be it anything ranging from a small melody to grand scripts and images, etc. – they are in the ownership of those who have created them unless they decide to share or sell their ownership.


Considering your plan to come up with a custom t-shirt designing company, it is your utmost responsibility to make sure none of your designers are using copied designs on your t-shirts. They shall be a new creation that sells your brand and not the already existing designs under your name. The later can put your company in great danger and put it down the hill even before rising.


Copyright Law and Custom T-shirt Designs –


Put aside the laws of copyright, implicating attractive designs from the internet over a custom t-shirt is already unethical. As a custom t-shirt designer, you must have knowledge about the basics of copyright law in custom t-shirt. Even though the designers and t-shirt designing companies are already known to the unethical side of it, a lot of them are tempted to use attractive designs from the internet just to attain more sales and revenues. Well, remember that these revenues would be of no use if your company is caught in a copyright case.


Knowing the basics of copyright law in custom t-shirt designing also helps you to prevent your designs from being copied and helps you build a strong and authentic business. Knowing the right information about copyright infringements can be of great use in both the ways, preventing your designs as well as keeping them original and authentic without the fear of being caught in a copyright case.


The Dos and Don’ts of Custom T-shirt Designing –


The Don’ts –

  • Make sure you are not incorporating any character, figure, or image in your t-shirt designs that resemble the characters and visuals used in comic books, cartoon films, and series.
  • Make sure you are not infringing any organizational logo, name, or visual identity that does not comes under your copyrights.
  • Make sure not to use the names or trademarks of any particular organization without actually purchasing their copyrights.
  • Make sure not to use any celebrity’s artwork, caricature, or artwork on your custom t-shirts. Taking their photos and converting them into artwork or caricature is meant to be stealing and it can cause you a case of copyright infringement.
  • Internet memes are a common source of amusement and they are widely put on custom t-shirts. The best thing to avoid infringement with these is to avoid any of them having celebrity artworks or anything that might be a breach of copyright laws.

Don’ts –

  • Images available for commercial use i.e. royalty-free images can be used in your custom t-shirt designs without any fear of infringement.
  • Images found in the public domain are those whose copyrights have expired and they are free to be used on custom t-shirts without any fear of breaching the law.
  • Quotations from the public domain can be used freely over custom t-shirt designs.
  • Quotations from the authors that have died past 70 years can be freely used over custom t-shirts designs.
  • Common sayings and parodies can also be quoted freely on your t-shirt designs.
  • Sites are providing free images for commercial usage with a little restriction of giving them the credits. So, you can use them while giving them the credits.


To put it all condensed, creating a t-shirt design or running an agency that sells custom design t-shirts call for having deep insights of the basics copyright law in custom t-shirt designing. It is always great to create something new or double-check any of the designs you are taking from the internet about the laws of copyright infringement than being caught in a case and unable to defend yourself. While there is a great variety of images and designs to be incorporated in your custom t-shirts, most of them require permission and taking care of that can save you from the negative consequences.