Saturday, September 02, 2017

'Ware What You Do With That Tee

Beware what you do with a Tee... shirt, that is.

Some authors take some of their own best quotes from their novels, apply them to T-shirts, and either sell them, or simply have friends, family and street teams wear them for publicity.

In such cases, there is probably some small print, attributing the source of the quote to the book and author.
It wouldn't be an advertisement otherwise. If you are an alien romance author, (or any genre of author), you might be interested in whether or not you could trademark or copyright the quotes.

Probably not. I have trademarked a name of a blog, but I doubt that I could trademark a snarky phrase uttered by one of my alien alpha males.

If you are a fan, you might be interested in whether you could sell T-shirts decorated with quotes from your favorite authors' books, or with your favorite celebrity's Tweets.

Possibly so, but it would be classy--and safe-- to seek permission.

However, do not take a copyrighted work such as a photograph or painting (by someone else), and apply it to a T-shirt or other object without permission. Over the years I have purchased non-exclusive, limited rights to use photographs of attractive male model's body parts (usually their chests and adjacent muscles) for use as cover art. Often, the waivers and licenses specifically forbid me to use the images on mugs and tote bags and such swag.

I'd like to recommend just two legal blog articles about T-shirts and copyright.

The blogging lawyers of Morrison & Foerster LLP , Mona Fang and John F. Delaney write about Zazzle's T-Shirt woes (Zazzle Fizzles: Website Operator Denied Copyright Safe Harbor Protection For Its Sale Of Physical Products Featuring User-Generated Images).

The title does not say it all. Their article contains some very eloquent and clear explanation of how the judges deliberated and reasoned, and what was and was not an issue.

The copyright protection or lack thereof of someone else's Tweet, even a lucrative one, is examined under "A Tee, A Tweet And Frank Ocean" by Tim Buckley of Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman PC.

Tim Buckley's sound legal advice is that it would be better to seek permission before monetizing someone else's Tweet..

My entirely amateur view is that lawsuits are very expensive, lawyers have to be paid no matter who wins, and not every court awards legal fees to the winner. Moreover, Tweets go global, and laws in Europe are kinder to copyright owners. IMHO, the alleged Tweet-snagger should give credit to the Tweeter on her website.

Happy Labor Day!

Rowena Cherry

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