The internet not only offers inexhaustible business opportunities, but it's also a great source of inspiration. Searching for images and quotes has never been easier and you might want to use your findings for print designs. However, it can often be considered copyright and/or trademark infringement, so we put together this guide to help you to understand how it works. You can also check out our blog article Can I print this?
You can not use works, symbols and designs created and owned by another company and considered Intellectual Property.
Copyright is the ownership over a piece of work or art and exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, exploit and otherwise profit from it. Work is automatically copyrighted at the time of creation; however, registration is required if a business wants to sue over the use of the material by another party. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright protects original "literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works", such as: books, articles, web content, paintings, photographs, and visual works, songs, movies, television shows and ads.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark protects "words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods." This means that a company can register a trademark for items that define a company brand, such as: a business name, brand or product names, logos or marks, company slogans or phrases.
You can use works, which are royalty free for commercial use, which belong to Public Domain or fall under the Act of Fair Use.
Creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.
Public domain includes: works created before 1923, works with expired copyright (copyright protection generally lasts for 70 years after the death of the author; if the work was a "work for hire", then copyright persists for 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication) or works deliberately placed in public domain by the creator - for example, the Bitcoin logo was placed in the public domain by its designer Satoshi Nakamoto.
The Fair Use Act
The limited right to make fair use of a later work of elements that otherwise would be found to have been copied from, or derived from an earlier copyrighted work.
In determining whether a particular use is fair use, the Copyright Law mentions the following factors, which are not exhaustive:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether you’ve made a new transformative work, and whether your use is commercial;
- The nature of the original work, such as whether it is more factual than fictional;
- How much of the original work was used;
- Whether the new use affects the potential market for the original work.
What happens when you violate copyrights?
If you infringe on someone’s copyrighted work, you could get a notice demanding you to cease and desist using and distributing the copyrighted work. You could face penalties of $1,000-$20,000 for each infringed work. You could go to jail. It all depends on the extent of the infringement.
There are lots of grey areas in Intellectual property law and unfortunately it isn’t always about being right or wrong. If you don’t have the time, money or resources to fight a trademark/copyright accusation your best bet is to pay the requested damages amount to avoid going to court.
Where to check for information?
If you want to use an existing work - image, quote or other item - which might or might not be protected, please refer to:
or consult an attorney specializing in Intellectual property.
By using Printify, you warrant that you own or are the licensee of all trademark rights, copyrights, rights of publicity and other intellectual property or other proprietary rights necessary. We take no responsibility for any intellectual property infringement which might occur while creating your designs.