Copyright Law Applies to T-Shirt Designing

When you hire an artist to create a design for you, you own the product designed once the art work is complete but not the copyright to the design- it still remains the artist’s property as it is his creativity. An authority must be granted by the artist in writing to claim that the copyright has been transferred as well. The payment you make is for his creativity and effort but this does not mean that the design becomes your property. This does not have to be a long, fancy process, simply something in black and white that states the artist has either transferred the copyright to his design or he shares it with you. If you hire the artist as a contractor, you do not own copyrights until there is an agreement but if the designer is your employee, you automatically own copyrights to his design as an employer.

A copyright is the protection provided to an original, tangible form of work in literature, art, drama, music, architecture, design or research work. It authorizes the owner to claim an infringement in case his work is reproduced, altered, published or broadcasted without his consent. A copyright exists when an idea is put down as an expression on paper or a computer file. It is not necessary to register this copyright except if a lawsuit has to be filed against plagiarism. A registered copy with the United States Copyright Office claims authority of the owner with the date and place of the creation of this work with official stamps. A legal registration provides a public record which makes it easier to prove copyright ownership. This process is much cheaper than the trademark registration and costs around $30.

The symbol © is also not essential except that it makes it clear that the owner has a registered copyright. Anyone still willing to use your design or composition must obtain the permission of the owner or face consequences at the court.

Anyone who violates the copyrights of an owner is liable of being summoned to the court for infringing the copyright. If the owner already has a registered product, the infringer will pay not only the damages to the sales and loss on profit but also the attorney fee. But if the copyright is not registered, the defendant only pays the damages to sales and loss on profit to the claimant.

The hardest part is finding people who violate your rights especially in the T-shirt industry. As it is a very big industry and many people on small and large scales are engaged in T-shirt printing, it is difficult to know if your design is being copied. Many of these manufacturers have no trademarks and no registrations. That is what makes it hard to track them.

What Is a Copyright Search?

Some law firms will perform copyright searches in an attempt to learn whether an image or work might infringe someone’s copyright. Copyright searches aren’t like other IP searches. Trademark searches are performed to see if a potential mark is likely to be registered or face obstacles during prosecution. Patent searches are performed to see if an invention is novel and nonobvious and can be patented. Copyright searches are a bit different, and often dangerous.

Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is created. Just about everything with a minimal level of creativity has copyright protection. Federal registration of a copyright is another matter – this is a process that must be applied to begin and results in having your copyright federally registered. Copyrights that are registered are relatively easy to search and discover, because the government has a list of them catalogued away. It would be impossible, however, to find all relevant, non-registered, copyrighted images. Most works are never registered for copyright protection, such as school essays, restaurant menu designs, website layouts, childhood drawings, and on and on and on…. All of these things have copyright protection, but they will be almost impossible to find because they are usually never registered. If I draw something and file it away, it has copyright protection, but no one will ever really know about it.

The impossibility of finding them isn’t necessarily a problematic thing. Because copyright infringement generally requires proof of both access and copying, the impossibility of searching and finding a work could correlate with it not being initially accessed, and therefore, not copied. This, too, makes sense: the fact that one kid’s picture of the family, the house, the dog, and the sun looks like another kid’s doesn’t mean they are copies – it simply means they look alike. If the first kid never had access to the other kid’s work, he couldn’t have copied it.

Doing a search opens a can of worms, and that can has the label “access.” If you were to do a search of registered or non-registered copyrighted images and did find something that is similar to your work, you have now accessed that similar work. If you then continue to use your work with your new-found knowledge of the similar work, there is an argument that you have now infringed the similar work’s copyright. So a search doesn’t really help “avoid” infringement: if you copied your image from a work, then you know about the underlying work, and the search is unnecessary. If you didn’t copy your image from a work, then you will only risk acquiring knowledge of a similar work by performing a search and exposing yourself to an infringement claim.

Is Media Plagiarism Between Mediums Acceptable?

Should a blog post on someone’s website end up verbatim in a newspaper or magazine publication? Is taking the dialogue from a television news show and publishing it in print an acceptable practice? With technology and media being what they are today, this type of thing happens all the time. Publishing duplicate content on the internet will get flagged by software that checks for duplicate content or previous publication, but what about cross-medium media plagiarism? How do you avoid that? It happens every day both on and off the internet. Is there a way to prevent it?

In many cases the answer is no. The best plagiarism software can only check submitted content and match it to any other similar content found online or on offline proprietary databases. Video and television, unless there is a published script on the web, cannot be flagged with this method. The best you can do is to transcribe the story and then check the transcription with the plagiarism software. This isn’t as difficult as you might think. Closed captioning can do it for you if it’s available. Transcripts may also be available directly from the media outlet that airs the story.

One of the more common forms of media plagiarism comes in the form of scientific research plagiarism. This is not as easily detectable as other forms of plagiarism where matched content can be flagged. The scientific discovery itself could be the item plagiarized, and writing about it as if it were your own is every bit a copyright infringement as copying and pasting the exact content. In order to write scientific white papers, data is necessary to back up the statements made in plain prose. Taking that data from another source that is not your own is also considered plagiarism.

Retype a newspaper story and publish it on the internet. Copy and paste a web story and publish it in print. Download a television script or scientific whitepaper and claim it for your own. These are the types of cross-medium plagiarism instances that modern technology has made possible. The technology to detect these abuses has also improved along the way, but ultimately the only way to prevent it is through the integrity of writers and editors. There are far too many instances where duplicate content is submitted and editors just don’t care. That needs to stop.

In February 2011, Google put through a change in their search algorithm called Google Panda, or Google Farmer as it is known in some circles. Part of this change involved the devaluation of duplicate content, essentially dropping any website that uses it from a prominent page position down to one in search engine oblivion. This change is a start, but it doesn’t cover material or content that isn’t published on the internet. There are companies that will buy printed material, like school papers for instance, and resell them for reproduction by students in other locales. This practice, heinous as it is, is not punishable by any significant fine or legal penalty, like other forms of plagiarism are. Hopefully, some day it will be.

How To Skip Intermediaries In the Publishing Process

“Code is Law,” Lawrence Lessig stated. What do we need lawyers for, then, in the digital age? “Let’s kill all the lawyers,” Shakespeare would suggest. Why don’t we and why internet does – that is the question that will be attempted at answering. The reader will be asked to reach the verdict in the court that will be created in his mind while Shakespeare and Lessig will be waiting on him to end with the lawyer’s head.

What’s Inside His Head?

The idea of copyright was well justified at the beginning. So was the print. Actually, it was revolutionary. However, petabytes of data that run through cables of today’s internet machine changed the rules. Lawyers changed them, too. By the renewed law of copyright as of 1980s, they forbid anything to fall into public domain per se. But the public domain clothed in virtual coat of the internet era does not need to be dressed by corporate giants any longer. They can keep all rights reserved to themselves, as long as authors who choose to leave something to the public – can actually do it. Confirming that software has the effect of the law, Creative Commons organization released its first set of copyright licenses in 2002. The licenses allow authors to pick from a set of conditions to apply to their work. So, whose law is now more focused on community? And how is it that community became so important.

Internet Killed the Copyright Star

By taking one look at the social network or trying a single search at, you are pretty sure that the future of research is collaborative. A forlorn smart head locked in a dark cellar with chemicals vaporizing from the holes in the wall will not get very far any longer. Much the less does he need a lawyer to protect him. The idea is to – share. This solely can gain respect for the scientist, since data loaded world won’t allow for duplications. The scientist which makes his work openly accessible encourages community to re-use his results in any way, but the credits will be acknowledged to him and not to some lone law-protected ranger, if the results prove meaningful. We need the results to prove meaningful today, more than ever. Data scientists of the future must realize that to give free access to their research benefits both them and the world. This, and that data will build their career and not the law firm.

In Through the Public Domain

A lawyer would look much like Alice if he was found in the Public Domain. What would his size be? What would a “rights reserved” head do in the world of “no rights reserved”? Which door to lock, where to put his seal, where to deny access, where to build a barrier? The world fights nowadays for this sort of Wonderland for the lawyer. We would like to see him lost in his papers and hurrying to his queen worried that his head may be chopped off. Why do we then still fear for our heads? The open access model is disruptive, but also slow. The public domain day is awaited “every new year since the first copyrights expired, back around 1724” as mentioned on Gutenberg ( ). What will make it into the new list, what will make it into the next year’s list? Following the dramatic growth of open access, the public domain can only grow fat itself. The bigger the public domain, the lesser the number of lawyers. Perhaps, some day, a world will be empty of lawyers – just like Shakespeare imagined it.

Song Copyright – How Songs and Music Are Protected by Copyright

1. The Copyright Office Does NOT “Copyright” Your Work

Most people misunderstand how copyrighting songs and music really works. For instance, getting a copyright for your music has nothing to do with the copyright office.

Even the Copyright Office explains this in their information booklet, Copyright Basics (page 3):

“The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No… registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright.”

2. A Copyright Is Automatic:

The truth is that securing a song copyright is an automatic process that occurs the moment someone puts a song or music into physical form. That means when you first write down the words and/or music on paper, or first record them onto a cd, or tape, or digital file.

  • You DON’T need to register it with the Copyright Office.
  • You DON’T need to put a copyright notice anywhere.
  • You automatically — and legally — have your copyright the moment you put the song into physical form, regardless, and with no further action required.

It’s a done deal!

But wait… Here’s where things get a bit trickier…

3. How to Prove Your Automatic Copyright:

Having an automatic copyright isn’t the same as proving you have it!

So the most important thing you can do is to make sure you have a way to prove when you first put your material into physical form. In other words, you need proof of when you got your automatic copyright!

And that’s where registering your copyright comes in.

Registering your copyright means you make a public record of it. And you can do that several different ways: you can register it with the copyright office. Or you can register it with a private registration service. Either way simply makes a public record of your work so you can later prove the date of your song copyright.

4. Don’t Bother With “The Poor Man’s Copyright”:

But the one thing you should not do is rely on “the poor man’s copyright” method to protect yourself. Because, contrary to popular belief, it does not work!

(The poor man’s copyright is when you mail a copy of your songs to yourself [or a friend] and then don’t open the envelope so you can later try using the postmark to prove when you first wrote the material.)

in fact, the poor man’s copyright has never been accepted in a court of law! And the reason is simple: it’s just too easy to tamper with an envelope or postmark. Also, you would have to use yourself or your friends as witnesses and such witnesses are not considered reliable in court because they have an interest in the case!

5. Protecting Your Songs Is Easy:

So always use an independent registration service – either a reputable private firm, such as, or the copyright office – to register your songs.

And one more bit of information… If you ever need to actually sue someone for copyright infringement, and you wrote the song in the U.S., you will need to also file your song with the copyright office before actually filing the lawsuit. But that can be done anytime during the “life” of your copyright (which is the composer’s lifetime plus 70 years), and even after someone has tried stealing your song or registering their own copyright for it!

So if you would like to avoid all the forms and expense of initially registering all your songs with the copyright office, you can first register them with a private registration service.

Then, if anyone ever tries to steal any of your privately registered songs, you have the proof needed to show you had copyright protection before they did! Often, just showing the thief this proof (of your private registration) is enough to stop them. But even if that doesn’t work, you can always file just that one particular song (the one stolen) with the copyright office before filing your lawsuit, and then use the private registration evidence in court.

That way, you save having to register all your material with the copyright office. You can use a less expensive and faster private registration service first, and then wait and see if you ever need to take further action later.

Just always remember to register your songs as soon after you compose them as possible, either with a reputable private registration service or the copyright office!

Better safe than sorry!

(And btw, it’s not “copyright” or “copy write” – it’s copyright…)

And to read other articles about stolen songs and the myth of the poor man’s copyright, click “Article Source” at the end of this article.

Disclaimer: The above information is intended as general information only, not as legal advice or solicitation for legal services, and should not be relied on as such. Please consult with a local attorney in your area for specific legal questions on music copyright law.

Copyright Solicitors and Issues of Intellectual Property

Many people wrongly assume that intellectual property and copyright is identical.

However, while they do have significant overlaps and are undoubtedly related, if you speak to specialist copyright solicitors, they will be able to explain the differences. This article looks at how they relate to each other and why it is important to understand the differences between different facets of intellectual property if you ever find yourself in a situation where you think you might need to use the services of a copyright solicitor.

Generally speaking, ‘intellectual property’ is something of an umbrella term that incorporates different pillars that make up the whole. Copyright is one of these, and this pillar of intellectual property refers to recorded work. This can include literary works, artistic, dramatic or musical works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts, and computer programmes.

As the author of one of these works, you have automatic international rights to be identified as the author under the Berne Convention, the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, as well as various other laws. This is something your copyright solicitors will be able to explain to you, and it is always a good idea to talk to a copyright solicitor if you think your rights have been infringed upon because there are steps that you can take to deal with the situation.

As well as copyright, intellectual property also includes trademarks. There are two types of trademark: non-registered and registered. It can take up to 18 months to register a trademark and you are not allowed to use the ® symbol unless you have registered something. Trademarks tend to apply to things such as slogans, titles, names, words and images that help to identify a brand or business.

Intellectual property also encompasses design rights; designs can fall under both copyright and design laws, so if you have an issue with a design you should talk to your copyright solicitor. Patents are something else that falls under the general heading of intellectual property; patents require a formal application and they are generally granted by a government, giving you the patent within a particular territory or nation state. It can take up to 3 years to be granted a patent, and they help to protect inventions and industrial processes from unauthorised use.

All of this shows that while intellectual property and copyright are undoubtedly closely linked, they are not exactly the same. This is something that should be remembered if you ever need to make a claim in a case due to your copyright being infringed upon.

Copyright Part One: The Definition of Protection for Creative Works

Intellectual property is a work or invention that is the result of creativity to which one has rights and which one may protect. A copyright is a way by law to protect a writing, for example, whether it is published or not. The U.S. Copyright Office designates copyright protection for “… original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed…” (see 17 USC § 102(a)). Essentially there are three parts to the protection: (1) being a work of authorship, which we explore in more detail within a separate article, (2) being original, and (3) being fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Original. A work must be original to the author in order to be protected. Further, the term “original” as used in copyright law simply means (i) that the work was independently created by the author and (ii) that it possesses at least a minimal degree of creativity. Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service is an illustrative case from 1991 in which Rural Telephone Service’s mere directory compilation deserved no copyright protection. The test is that an idea be more than “so mechanical or routine as to require no creativity whatsoever” – that the idea contain some “creative spark.” The court ruled that Rural Telephone Service’s directory was nothing more than an alphabetical list of all subscribers to its service, meaning no creative expression was involved.

Fixed. The fixed form does not have to be directly perceptible so long as it can be communicated with the aid of a machine or other device. For instance, a short story that is printed on paper meets this requirement, while a live performance of the same short story that is not being simultaneously recorded does not. Another example exists in a song. A song is considered fixed when it is written down on paper, which is the medium on which the song can be perceived, reproduced, and communicated. Further, as long as the work can be perceived by a machine, like the moment the author records it onto a cassette tape or compact disc, the song is fixed. Similarly, a computer program is fixed when stored on a computer’s hard drive. Further, even though bits and bytes are only temporarily fixed via the random access memory (RAM) of a computer, many courts have held that a computer program that exists in RAM is fixed for the purpose of copyright protection.

A Good License Agreement for Your Music

Many amateur composers fall victim to a badly drafted licensing agreement that totally stomps on their right over their royalties and possible million dollar career. This scenario does not only affect songwriters but also musical composers for movies and televisions. They write songs and produce music. The record company or the movie and television company just buys the composer’s rights over the song or the music and have the latter sign a waiver of their copyright.

Young struggling music artists, for example, are often forced to sign record contracts that are not favorable to their future career. It is understandable that they feel compelled to sign such contracts. Their careers at that early stage is in their infancy. The problem only arises if and when they meet with some success. Such early stage contracts often lay claim to future, post success and celebrity, records. Musicians often either don’t understand or merely gloss over these provisions. The consequence, however, can result is millions in lost revenues to the artists years after these contracts are signed.

Thus, it is important for amateur songwriters and composers to draft a licensing agreement to protect their future million dollar career. In order to make the agreement valid and good, the following stipulations must be inserted:

1. There must be a copyright protection over derivative works.

Some music, film and television companies give royalties to the owner of the music but limited only to the particular projects. Such as, if it is a music album, the composer will only receive his royalty depending on the sale of the music album. However, the music, film and television companies holds the right to sell the music for other derivative works, e.g., using the song as a musical score.

If the composer will have no right over the derivative use of his creation, the music or film company can make millions even when the sales of the music album have already declined. Take for example the song, “Feels like home” or “Somewhere over the rainbow”, it has been used in countless movies and soap operas all over the world. Every time these songs are used, the production company pays the record label royalties. Thus, if the composer will have a right over the derivative use of his creation, he will have additional potential earnings. Also, the composer or the songwriter will be protected from abusive record companies.

2. There must be a protection from unauthorized use.

Many composers lose a lot of potential income due to music piracy and unauthorized music downloading internet sites because most of the royalties are based on the sales of the album. Thus, for composers, they should include in their agreement stipulations that protect them from the unauthorized use of their music. The stipulation should require the licensee, or the record company to compensate him an additional amount for their failure to protect his creation from unauthorized use.

Current State of Copyright Awareness in Education

Many scholars believe that the rate of frequent copyright infringements among students and other users of copyright materials in academic environment is an indication that the awareness of copyright is still extremely low, especially, today that technology has made it easier to photocopy, plagiarize and pirate other peoples materials. This shows that there is little respect for creativity, so copyright protection is considered unnecessary. The high price of foreign and quality books is another major factor. As they are luxury goods, people still like pirated books.

It is however worrying to note once again that the issue of copyright has now become a global concern and infringement of copyright law has also received prominence, especially in the academic environment where a larger group of copyrighted material users are found. for instance, in an educational institution where lecturers rely on copyrighted materials to teach their students as the students also often consult copyrighted materials to meet their educational requirements, in such an environment, it is admitted that lack of copyright awareness may result in uncontrollable copyright infringement activities.

The fact that what pertains in other foreign universities seems to be absent in most Ghanaian universities on copyright awareness is a great worrying to the copyright industry.

One may even wonder what happens at a university where there is no copyright and access policies in this era where copyright infringement has become more evident with the emergence of advanced technology, as it is now possible to copy and use literary works that are likely to be protected by copyright. The situation at most Ghanaian schools reveal that many students, who cannot afford the prices of materials and textbooks, now make photocopies of essential texts and materials for their education at a low cost in the detriment of the copyright holders.

However it can only be concluded that the detriments caused by copyright infringement do not only affect authors but also publishers and other stakeholders in the publishing industry as a whole.

Considering that schools forms part of the major users of copyright-protected materials in Ghana, it is right to conclude that based upon the role of copyright in our knowledge-based economy, it is important that any serious enquiry into the subject of intellectual property (IP) has to consider this crucially important role of copyright in the production and dissemination of knowledge and knowledge-based products.

This is because most Ghanaian schools have library blocks resourced with various copyright-protected materials which are made available to both students and lecturers for the production of term papers, essays, report, thesis or dissertation, articles, journals and other scholarly publications by the students and lecturers. This suggests that the schools must therefore be positioned to effectively advocate their academic and institutional values and defend its teaching, research and service mission through effective copyright awareness.