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Custom T-Shirt....is it legal?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Sdashiki, Oct 17, 2006.

  1. macrumors 68040



    TV or Movie (live action as I am 100% positive animation is copyrighted in this respect) screenshot, which I have traced in Illustrator. My original thought is a two color image trace, i think you know what I mean. One color being the tshirt itself, or the negative space.

    Anyway, is it legal to then sell these t-shirts?

    I only ask because Ive designed some stupid images with some text, that a few people I know would like. Can I actually sell "illustrator traced" stills from a movie?

    on a side note, anyone got an recommendations for online custom t-shirt places?
  2. Moderator


    Staff Member

    No it is not.
  3. Guest


    I'd say it's a no...
  4. Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    My guess (based on my total lack of legal training) is that you couldn't even doodle your own images based on a TV or movie character and sell shirts with that image, unless you first had a license from the show's owner. I'd expect that every character, and perhaps every frame of the show, would be a potential infringement if you made commercial use of it on your own.
  5. macrumors 68040


    Hmmmm, that sucks.

    I guess no one is gonna get any of me custom "Big Lebowski" shirts.


    though on the topic of "fan art" you are incorrect. you can doodle anything you want and sell it, art is art. But when you say you are the original artist, you run into trouble.

    I sell lots of paintings of cartoon shows, and because I paint them myself and make no claim to be the original character artist, have nothing legal to worry about. Someone asks me to paint a character, and I do it. How can that be illegal?

    So I only wondered about the same thing with live action stuff and movies.

    Tracing a movie frame in illustrator is sort of like painting by hand, as it isnt the original thing printed directly.....
  6. Lau

    I'd imagine the scale would be important as well — if, as you say, that a few people you know would like them, and you're thinking of selling them to a few (as in, say, 5) friends for a bit of cash to cover the cost and the hassle, that you're unlikely to attract attention for it.

    If you were to do the same thing, but make a website, charge enough for a decent profit, advertise, that kind of thing, you're very likely to get told to cease and desist.

    It's technically illegal either way, but I think there's a difference between selling your t-shirts to a couple of local friends and starting to make profit out of it or doing it on a larger scale, and I think it's the latter that would be likely to get you in trouble.
  7. macrumors 68040


    in the painting realm I use eBay as my advertisement space

    and have done about 120+ individual paintings, every single one was a cartoon character. technically a copyrighted character.

    but who is to tell me I cant paint what someone wants?

    I doubt there is anything illegal whatsoever about fan art and selling it.

    in terms of the tshirt thing, if people really liked them, id sell em on eBay. (in the best terms id be thinking like 4-5 a month)

    cease and desist means ive got clout!
  8. Guest


    actually, creating fan-art for you own use is generally legal.

    selling fan art is completely illegal. wether you get caught or not is another matter.
  9. macrumors 68040


    so if you ask me to paint something for you, and I do, and I ask for compensation, I have done an illegal act?
  10. Guest


    if it is a painting of someone else's copyrighted character and they have not given you express permission to do so? yes.
  11. macrumors 68040


    so the fact i spent 8hrs drawing (NOT tracing) and then painting this character, is worth nothing?

    i am hard pressed to find anything about "fan-art" legality, other than it being a grey area.

    id only see it becoming a problem if I was to create stuff that outsold the originals, which dont exist anyway. its not like you can go out and buy a painting of your favorite cartoon character, so you ask me and I do it for you.

    honestly, does that truly seem "ILLEGAL" to you?
  12. Guest


    its irrelevant how much time you spent on it.

    it seems to me that if you are going to take something someone else created, redraw it, and try to sell it to make a profit then yes, it absolutely seems illegal. instead of creating fan-art and selling it, why not create something original instead?

    there is tons of gray area on the legality of fan-art NOT for sale, but everything i have read says that selling fan art is totally illegal.
  13. Moderator


    Staff Member

    The fact remains, right or wrong, that the characters and their likenesses are copyrighted. So, even if you were a 6 year old and drew SpongeBob with a crayon, if you sold it, it's not legal. It's a violation of the copyright.

    This was a big issue with Simpsons T-Shirts in the early-mid 90s. There were hundreds of knock offs circulating, to which Fox & MG served papers to just about everyone they could to stop the illegal sale of non-licensed images.
  14. macrumors 68040


    ok cool then Ill let everyone know I cant paint for them anymore.

    Sucks to be them, but oh well.

    If someone wants something painted, who am I to tell them "Nope, sorry go ask Mr. Millionaire inventor of the character to find time in their busy schedule to paint one for you"?

    I won't, Ill paint.

    And we arent talking about the tshirt thing anymore, its about actual paint on canvas.
  15. Moderator


    Staff Member


    T-Shirts are an example. It's still a ripped off image being sold for cash money. Doesn't matter if it's on cotton or on a napkin.
  16. Guest


    and you can do that if you want to, and odds are, you will not get caught selling 5 paintings a year or whatever it is. you did not ask about the ethics of what you are doing, you asked about the legality. Legally, its wrong.

    ethically? my opinion as someone who has sold a lot of original art, is that if you cannot create you own original work to sell then you should not be picking up a brush to start with. but thats just my very biassed opinion, not the law.
  17. macrumors 68040


    Again, I only cite the fact that I am providing a service for people.

    I know its hard to imagine, but most people I run into cant paint well enough to paint for themselves.

    So they ask me to paint something.

    And I do it.

    I cant paint for free as the materials, and id like to think my time, cost money.

    Say you personally wanted a 16x20 painting of Homer Simpson's headshot.

    You know that doesnt exist except MAYBE in poster form, which is flat and shiny and ugly to you.

    So, you find me and ask me to paint Homer on some canvas for you. And I do for a fee.

    You wouldnt do that if you really wanted something like that? Youd just lay down and say "Nah, id rather not have something I want"
  18. Guest


    drug dealers provide a service to people as well.
  19. macrumors 68040



    i am NOT the type of artists to paint 100s of stuff in my stuffy studio, trek to the local art show and hope someone buys a couple.

    i only paint when someone asks me to. 90% of the time, its a cartoon character.

    other times its something "modern and abstract", but they give me some guidelines and I go to work.

    i just dont see the value in painting and painting and painting with nothing to show for it but a bunch of paintings in my closet.

    and if it bothers you that every painting I have done has been sold, I am sorry. I just dont paint stuff that isnt for my own self, for fun anymore. Im too busy for that.
  20. macrumors 68040


    guess you dont want a painting.

    but sure, group me in with drug dealers.

    thats truly fair.


    and I think dealers are providing GOODs and not SERVICES
  21. Guest


    I'm confused by this...

    You asked whether what you are doing is legal. The consensus seems to be it's not.

    Would you feel better if we said it's legal?
  22. macrumors 68040


    id feel better if someone would stop and think...

    you want something painted, are you going to just say you can never have one because the subject is something "copyrighted", or find someone who might paint it for you?

    regardless of what the painting is of, who is anyone in the world to tell YOU what you can and can not have painted and hung on your wall.

    if i was painting 100s of characters and selling them at a local art show, YES thats totally and utterly disgusting and probably 100% illegal no matter how you cut it.

    my personal scenario is that I dont paint until someone says what they want painted, then I goto work (after payment of course).
  23. macrumors G3

    Sorry, but that is incorrect if the 'doodle' is of a copyrighted image.

    But you are using an original composition to create your 'art', even if you interpreted the original composition (i.e. you don't actually trace it, merely copy it), if it's of a sufficient likeness then you could potentially be infringing on the copyright of that particular film.

    Then, if you decided to use a phrase from that film... for example, you trace the image of Jack Nicholson from The Shining, then add 'Here's Johnny' underneath it, then you're also likely infringing on that as well, and probably Jack Nicholson's likeness too.

    Because you do not own the rights to the 'image' or 'likeness' of the characters/persons in question. That's what potentially makes what you are doing illegal.
  24. Moderator


    Staff Member

    If you don't want to hear the answer, then it begs the question, why did you ask? :confused:

    Copyright is based on itellectual property, which no matter what, you don't own.
  25. macrumors 68040


    Again I am NOT painting and selling, I am painting on commission.

    and we are not talking about live action right now, just cartoons, paint and canvas.

    arent you all saying that its just as illegal for me to paint it as it is for someone to ask/want it painted in the first place?

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