Copyright Infringement: Who's Legally Responsible?

thestray
posted by thestray • 5 years ago

So I saw a design earlier (tagged) that is using the famous Frankenstein Boris Karloff image that we all know so well…
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A few days ago I’d read this article: http://www.howtostartaclothingcompany.com/truth-copyrights-licensing/

If you don’t feel like reading the short version is that the guy used the Boris Karloff Frankenstein likeness for a tee design (omitting a lot of the detail, enough that you’d think it’d be safe) but Universal saw it and he was forced to stop production of his shirt and pay them for the money he’d made off the shirt. So be warned I guess, but that’s not the purpose of the post.

I was wondering, say hypothetically that the frankentee were to get printed by DBH, and some dude from Universal were to catch wind of it, and wanted to sue or what not. Who, legally, is in trouble? The artist or DBH?

I’m pretty uneducated as far as the law is concerned, haha, so forgive me if the answer is obvious. I’m not really concerned about copyright infringement issues for myself because I always do 100% artwork anyway, but it was just something I was wondering and maybe other people wonder it too.

19 Replies

OmarO OmarO Human from

I’d love to know as well.

asher2789 asher2789 Artist from United States

once its printed… probably DBH cause they bought the artists rights from the artist who submitted it. the copyright holder would probably either sue them for a lot (greedy companies, you know..) or politely ask for them to stop production and pay any earnings from the shirt made..

before its printed… the artist. the copyright holder would probably ask the artist to remove the artwork from the site and destroy it. maybe a lawsuit… probably not.

im not a lawyer, but im somewhat knowledgeable about it.

when DBH asks for your work to print id assume they would ask you again if the work is yours or not (even though part of the terms for submitting is that the work must be your own).

FluentSword FluentSword Artist from

You agree that the work is entirely yours when you submit your design, and I believe you’re also listed on the copyright with DBH so I believe it’s shared responsibility. Since you sign the apparel rights over to DBH they are responsible for equivalent royalties, but I’m certain that they’d demand the entire sum of your “prize” back. Since you essentially committed fraud by lying about the source of your work, any agreement they have with you is void. I also believe, at least in the case of Frankenstein here, that Universal could also pursue you for licensing fees and perhaps damages as well. This is also why I make every asset in my work too.

But that’s just my understanding of the law, which is piss-poor to be honest. This stuff is too complicated for me to decipher. I ask copyright lawyers when I need an answer like that. I usually attract them during the full moon with orphan tears or puppy ears.

BenjaminPhantom BenjaminPhantom Artist from Florida, United States

I wonder why DBH lets these through. I’ve seen other companies/characters represented in parody or likeness on this site as well as on teefury. Seems pretty risky to me. There was a tee on here with Bela Lugosi and I actually emailed the Lugosi estate and they said that the shirt was illegal. I guess it will never be printed so there won’t be any issues. Just use your own imagination and creativity and then you have nothing to worry about. Seems pretty simple to me.

FluentSword FluentSword Artist from

Well you have to give the staff some credit. I’m sure they have thousands of designs submitted a day during the week, to say nothing of the weekends, so they have to triage. And on top of that it’s pretty unrealistic for them to know every stock photo/graphic/brush that’s out there. It’s got to be a whole lot easier for them to screen things that they’ve chosen for print. They probably put all the artwork under the microscope before it goes to print. I’m all for parody, there are things that need to be defaced or spoofed or used for social commentary, you just need to be careful and make it your own.

DistINKtive1 DistINKtive1 Artist from

original image…..flip horizontal…...posterize…..done.

FAIL!!!!

FluentSword FluentSword Artist from

I ctrl+c’d AND ctrl+v’d, that’s like two steps from the original already.

LOOK! There’s some kind of shameless self-promotion hidden in this post. I blame the Illuminati.

DistINKtive1 DistINKtive1 Artist from

No! The SPAMINATI !!!!

asher2789 asher2789 Artist from United States

FluentSword said: I ctrl+c’d AND ctrl+v’d, that’s like two steps from the original already.

LOOK! There’s some kind of shameless self-promotion hidden in this post. I blame the Illuminati.

dude. amazing. i want it!

BenjaminPhantom BenjaminPhantom Artist from Florida, United States
FluentSword said: Well you have to give the staff some credit. I’m sure they have thousands of designs submitted a day during the week, to say nothing of the weekends, so they have to triage. And on top of that it’s pretty unrealistic for them to know every stock photo/graphic/brush that’s out there. It’s got to be a whole lot easier for them to screen things that they’ve chosen for print. They probably put all the artwork under the microscope before it goes to print. I’m all for parody, there are things that need to be defaced or spoofed or used for social commentary, you just need to be careful and make it your own.

If the staff can find the time to reject designs for other reasons, they certainly can for obvious copyright infringement related designs. Anything Universal, Disney, Elvis, etc. are the most common ones that offend. I’m not an authority by any means but I do know that most of these companies are not fond of those who use their copyrighted material. Parodies may be a different story. Maybe they are ok.

biotwist biotwist Artist from new jersey, United States
BenjaminPhantom said: I wonder why DBH lets these through. I’ve seen other companies/characters represented in parody or likeness on this site as well as on teefury. Seems pretty risky to me. There was a tee on here with Bela Lugosi and I actually emailed the Lugosi estate and they said that the shirt was illegal. I guess it will never be printed so there won’t be any issues. Just use your own imagination and creativity and then you have nothing to worry about. Seems pretty simple to me.

ofcourse they would say that.
.laws get even more interesting when tributes and parodys are involved

thestray thestray Artist from United States
BenjaminPhantom said:
FluentSword said: Well you have to give the staff some credit. I’m sure they have thousands of designs submitted a day during the week, to say nothing of the weekends, so they have to triage. And on top of that it’s pretty unrealistic for them to know every stock photo/graphic/brush that’s out there. It’s got to be a whole lot easier for them to screen things that they’ve chosen for print. They probably put all the artwork under the microscope before it goes to print. I’m all for parody, there are things that need to be defaced or spoofed or used for social commentary, you just need to be careful and make it your own.

If the staff can find the time to reject designs for other reasons, they certainly can for obvious copyright infringement related designs.

That doesn’t even make sense, it doesn’t take any time at all for the other reasons, they can see it immediately. Copyright infringement takes some investigation though.

BenjaminPhantom BenjaminPhantom Artist from Florida, United States

Copyright infringement I’m sure can be tricky to figure out, but I’m talking about the real obvious ones as I stated above: Universal, Disney, etc.

thestray thestray Artist from United States

Where the source comes from doesn’t make it obvious, the way it’s done is what’s important. Because if you’ve done enough to make it your own, then you’re good. I wouldn’t have known that the frankentee was infringing unless I’d read that article really.

biotwist biotwist Artist from new jersey, United States

but the point is it has nothing to do with whats who’s but how much money backs up your opinion instead

thestray thestray Artist from United States

Despite all their money if they’re not right it means nothing though. The big companies seem to lose more of these suits than they win because they frivolously pursue anything that’s even vaguely similar to their property.

BenjaminPhantom BenjaminPhantom Artist from Florida, United States

Mmmm….Good!

MattisGentle MattisGentle Artist from

well, as i learned in Photo class, if a picture is considered “iconic” then it’s fair game.

idk if that picture is considered Iconic enough to edit.

FluentSword FluentSword Artist from
BenjaminPhantom said: Copyright infringement I’m sure can be tricky to figure out, but I’m talking about the real obvious ones as I stated above: Universal, Disney, etc.

Well it’s not so obvious as that. There’s a fuzzy line, you can’t use a direct likeness of an Intellectual Property but if a reasonable person can easily tell the difference between your version and the official thing then you probably are safe on legal grounds. BUT, what it comes down to is whether or not a large company is willing to give you the shake-down anyway. A company may still pursue you whether they know they can win on legal grounds or not. If they force you into a costly and time-consuming court case you may decide that it’s less trouble to simply give up on the design. So even there it’s a sort of gamble. 20th Century Fox, for example, is known to be fiercely protective of their IPs. I don’t know about Universal or Disney though. There is an awful lot of Disney parody out there. I know that Tom Burns did one a while ago:

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