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Meme copyright

Last posted Oct 04, 2011 at 11:55PM EDT. Added Sep 28, 2011 at 07:49AM EDT
7 posts from 5 users

Does anyone know if I’m breaching any copyright laws by making a t-shirt out of a meme for non-commercial reasons (i.e. just for me to look awesome)? What if I did decide to sell them?

Sep 28, 2011 at 07:49AM EDT

If you’re making it for yourself, probably not--and if you are, probably nobody would notice or care.

As for selling them, it depends. Does the artwork include copyrighted material, or is it in the public domain? For example, the guy who shot the original photo of the owl that eventually became ORLY owl likes to keep a strong hold on his copyright of the original photo. So don’t print that on a shirt and sell it. Similarly, you can’t just take somebody else’s drawing or photo of an owl and re-print that without securing reproduction rights. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t draw or otherwise represent the ORLY owl with your own artwork, since nobody and everybody owns the idea and catchphrase.

On the other hand, you could probably make a t-shirt with the original Rage guy face on it (or probably any of the others), since ownership of the Rage face is everybody’s and nobody’s.

If you’re looking to make money, do take care to look into the licensing of any artwork that you decide to use. If it’s just for personal use, chances are that it’s much less of an issue.

Last edited Sep 28, 2011 at 08:35AM EDT
Sep 28, 2011 at 08:34AM EDT

Thanks. Very helpful.

The meme uses an original photo that I don’t know the origin of (nor do I know whether the author of that particular incarnation was the copyright owner of the original photo). I guess that means I can’t sell. More awesomeness for me then.

Sep 28, 2011 at 10:04AM EDT

Out of curiosity, what picture are you planning to put on it?

Sep 28, 2011 at 01:06PM EDT

How does fair use relate to T-Shirts? Is it the same as internet parodies and criticism?

Last edited Sep 30, 2011 at 12:42AM EDT
Sep 30, 2011 at 12:41AM EDT

You should be okay, if you’re the only one with the shirt… As long as you don’t pull a Hot Topic and start mass selling t shirts. Anonymous would throw another fit lol

Last edited Oct 04, 2011 at 11:56PM EDT
Oct 04, 2011 at 11:55PM EDT

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