I spend a lot of time on T-Shirt Forums and the Apparel Decorators Forum and one of the most common types of question that I see there is in regards to some aspect of copyright law.   Whether it’s “can I draw my own version of a celebrity/well known logo/ famous picture and sell it?”  or “is it all right to use a copyrighted image if I’m just making something for myself?” or “can I use the lyrics from my favorite song if I name the artist?” I see questions about copyright every day.

Copyright law is a complicated subject and I am making no claim at being an expert or even a dilettante when it comes to copyrights,  but I do know enough to know this,  if it’s not your original work, don’t use it without the proper permissions or licenses.  It’s really that simple.   People tend to complicate the copyright issue because they’re looking for some miraculous loophole that will allow them to legally do what they know they shouldn’t,  but, at its core copyright is pretty simple.  The rights to the image, or the words, or the song,  or the face and body belong to the person with whom they originated.   If you didn’t create it or, if it’s a case of wanting to use a celebrities image,  if you aren’t the celebrity in question,  it’s not yours and you shouldn’t use it unless you have gotten the right to do so.

You may be wondering what this has to do with sublimation and, again, the answer is pretty simple.  Sublimation is about decorating items or garments with images.  The images that you use should either be images that you’ve created yourself,  or images that you have the legal right to use.  That also applies to items that you make for customers.  If they don’t have the rights to the images they’re asking you to use,  then they and you are guilty of copyright infringement.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and no one wants to be sued, so you’re always wise to err on the side of caution when it comes to copyright.

To learn more about copyright:

Copyright Law of the United States

Copyright Basics

U.S. Copyright Office – Frequently Asked Questions


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