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.