Shop Owners running an online business need to be aware of copyrights. We’ll tell you what you need to look out for when it comes to your authorship and that of others.
Dealing with copyright is like handling cats – the better you know them, the fewer scratches there will be. Most creative people are familiar with the concept of copyrights, but they don’t really know what rules and implications are in place.
The vital question is: how can you ward off nasty lawsuits against you?
Well, we’ll be glad to lend you a hand with this short guide to help you navigate the churning waters of copyrights. Let’s tackle the basics first…
What is a copyright?
Copyright guarantees the protection of intellectual property. The law refers to intellectual property as an “artistic work”. A design can be considered an artistic work according to copyright law if it has “a property which subsists in accordance with an original arrangement of published editions”. In a nutshell, this basically means that your design must be unique. And uniqueness is on hand if an appropriate intellectual level of creation is recognisable.
Copyright protection starts with the creation of an artistic work
The moment you create an artistic work, you hold authorship and copyrights. In the event of an authorship dispute, presenting evidence of the time when your design was created can prove vital. A notary is a super safe option to document the point in time of creation. Alternatively, you can use:
As the author of the design, you decide whether and how your design will be published. It is up to you to exploit your design the way you like. You have e.g. the option of transferring usage rights of your design to one or more licensees (people who take up a license) through license agreements.
The rights to your own design will stay in place as long as you live. Since copyright protection varies from country to country, different provisions may apply to protect your design depending on your place of residence or nationality.
What to consider when creating a T-shirt design?
Designs uploaded by you must not violate existing third-party rights or legal provisions. This includes copyright.
Artistic work protected by copyright may originate from the following areas:
- Logos of sports teams, schools and universities, organizations and clubs, movies, books, games, artists and bands
- Pictures or artwork of sports teams, schools and universities, organizations, clubs, films, books, games and bands
- Figures from films, books, comics and TV shows
- Viral content such as memes and Youtube videos
- Images from search engines or any other image not approved for commercial use
- Celebrities as well as pictures of them, even if the content was created by themselves (e.g. photos)
More information about uploading designs can be found on our homepage:
How to tell if a design is copyrighted?
Indicators of copyrights:
- The © symbol is usually placed on or around the protected image or graphic
- A watermark seal “stamped” on the images is used by way of symbols, trademarks or copyright names
- There is a subtitle or similar label indicating authorship
To find out whether a design is protected, you can try:
- A reverse image search to find out where the original came from.
- Get in touch with the source. If it’s published on a website, they will know.
How to protect your design and what can you do if your design is used by third parties?
At Spreadshirt we add watermarks to images in the high-res previews. If you notice anyone else selling your design on Spreadshirt, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your design should appear anywhere else on the net, please refer the matter to a lawyer. Spreadshirt cannot advise you on legal matters.
The long and the short of it
Copyright infringements can get you into hot water, but the same rules apply for everyone. Have your designs protected, be careful not to “borrow” too much and seek legal advice in case you should notice others stealing your work.
And have fun creating new and original designs!