Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making Single T-Shirt From Poster

Dear Rich: I want to transfer a copyrighted poster I purchased to a single T shirt to wear myself (in public). I would not make any other copies of any sort or sell the single T shirt. The whole poster would be reproduced on the T shirt. Is this fair use or not? (The poster contains no trademarks.) If this answer seems a little unfocused, it's because the Dear Rich Staff is too busy watching the World Series (and wondering where the coaching symbols stop and the OCD behavior begins). Your reproduction of a copyrighted image (assuming the poster isn't in the public domain) would be unauthorized and classified as infringement. We don't know if your use would qualify as a fair use because that's an issue that would only be resolved by a court. We suppose one could make an analogy that it is similar to making a copy of a CD for personal use. However, we can't point to any cases about such behavior probably because it is highly unlikely that the copyright owner of a poster is going to sue an individual who makes one T-shirt. Not only is the copyright owner unlikely to ever learn about it, but there would be little incentive to bring a lawsuit since damages would likely be minimal. PS.  If you kids are looking for a scary (and authorized) t-shirt for Halloween, check out this vision of Tarman from Dread Central. PPS. We're talking only about t-shirts here, not t-party shirts (which appear to have their own set of rules).