What are the merchandise copyright laws?

I’m making a T-shirt with a well known artist’s name on it and selling it on a fan website for profit. The artist is not aware of it but if he finds out could I potentially be in any legal trouble?

Asked on July 28, 2010 under Business Law, Kentucky


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you could indeed face liability and/or also an order to cease doing so and destroy any inventory. First of all, people have a right to control commercial use of their own likeness or image. Even without actually trademarking his image, etc., the artist would have a cause of action against you for this reason. In addition, if the artist's image, name, etc. has been trademarked in any fashion, you could face liability for trademark violation. Given how easy it is to find infringing used on the Web, if you do this, there is an excellent chance that you will at least receive  a "cease and desist" letter from the artist's attorney, and possibly be sued for monetary damages as well.

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