Copyright info for print-on-demand designs

Copyright and trademark issues can cause a lot of problems for print-on-demand merchants. Intellectual property is far from cut and dry, and there’s a lot to consider when creating a design. Previously, we’ve covered a bit about how we handle copyright issues for our designs, as well as what to do if Merch by Amazon rejects your design.

Every print-on-demand platform has their own rules about what they allow. Often, those may go beyond copyright and trademark issues. Still, it’s best to start by looking at general copyright issues. In a blog post from April 2017, well-known print-on-demand seller Michael Essek, answered a number of common questions about copyright and t-shirts.

The questions are catered to t-shirt designers. Recommended reading for all print-on-demand merchants and t-shirt designers. Here’s a sample:

So I Can’t Create A T-Shirt Of My Favourite Celebrity, Even If I Draw Them Myself?

You can of course draw celebrities all day long – the problems arise when you want to sellthat drawing in the form of a T-Shirt (or really, when you want to profit in any way from the likeness or name of another person).

And if you ever want to sell your creation, you will probably want (or need) to use the celebrity’s name in your product’s Title, Description, Tags etc. (In order to get your product in front of the people who might want to buy it). And in doing so you will be advertising your design to any rights holders who are on the lookout for infringements. (Rights holders who make significant income from T-Shirt licensing are the ones most likely to come after you).

So unless you can sell without using the name of the celeb – it’s much safer to create original work that doesn’t rely on the names or likenesses of famous people whatsoever.

Knowing what isn’t allowed not only helps keep you safe, this copyright info may help you see some opportunities of ways to create designs that are influenced by others yet don’t infringe on their rights.


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