Copyright and Related Questions
As we mention in our terms, it is never our intention to print copyrighted designs or works without permission from the copyright holders.
You represent and warrant that you have the right to use all designs (including text) that you provide to us to decorate merchandise (“Designs”). You agree to indemnify us and hold us harmless for, from and against all claims of third parties related to claims related to the Designs and our placement of the Designs on merchandise, including but not limited to claims of infringement, defamation or slander.
What about fan art?
Essentially, anything from any book, motion picture, film, or television cannot be reproduced (printed) without express written permission.
Some key points about U.S. copyright law:
According to copyright law, copyright holders have the sole right to distribute derivative works based on an original creation.
When in doubt about copyright, the answer is no. “The key point to remember is this: Fan fiction and fan art are, usually, an infringement of the right of the copyright holder to prepare and license derivative works based on the original. This is almost without exception.” This is discussed more thoroughly here:
As a business, we cannot legally print copyrighted material (for any purpose – personal use, donation, display, gift, sale, anything), even if we personally suspect the copyright holder wouldn’t mind, or that it’s a small project etc. We’ve had colleagues shut down for small infractions, and we can’t take the risk.
What about parody?
Parody is protected in a limited way. However, it’s up to a judge to determine whether something is parody. Since none of our staff is a judge, or even an attorney, we have to be safe and assume that a judge’s defniition would be very, very narrow. So, in most situations, we’re not able to print parodies of copyrighted art. Sorry, we don’t make the laws.
What if I’m not going to sell it?
A common myth is that it’s okay to print or share copyrighted material as long as it is not for sale. However, this has no impact on the legality of the matter. We cannot legally make one shirt for a gift for your friend if it’s got a copyrighted character on it. Even if you drew the character by hand. It’s still derivative work in the eyes of the law (or at least enough judges that we can’t take the chance).