Friday, September 9, 2011

Can "Punks in Chunks" Quote Go on T-Shirt

Dear Rich: If I took the phrase" I eliminate punks cut em up in chunks, you were souped, you heard me then your ego shrunk" from an artist song and put it on t-shirts does that constitute copyright infringement? Maybe, but probably not. Generally, short phrases are not protected under copyright law (we can't say for sure whether this phrase qualifies as"short"). In addition, as this article points out, copyright holders sometimes have more leeway when going after people who use the phrase on merchandise. In any case, we think the probability of the song owner (L.L. Cool J) coming after you is slim. You are more likely to run into problems if you include images of the rapper or imply that L.L. Cool J endorses the shirt. In that case, you would be stepping on LL's right of publicity and as you may know, L.L. has always been a savvy merchandise marketer.