How do I protect my business from Copyright or Trademark Infringement?

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How do I protect my business from Copyright or Trademark Infringement?

Here’s the deal in a nutshell

I run a print shop and we print whatever the customer sends us and we either
deliver it or mail it out. We mainly deal in blueprints but here lately we have
had an increase in requests to do color posters, etc. and that is a huge profit
margin for us if we do so.

However, I don’t want to get into trouble if we print something that is
copyrighted. Right now, since we are fairly slow, I can handle this because I
look at every image that comes in and if it copyrighted I simply respond to the
request and tell them I need a certificate from the copyright owner stating
that they have permission to reproduce the image. If I receive one, I file it
and print the image. If I do not receive one, I don’t print it.

But as the season picks back up in January, we will have too many requests for
me to simply sit at a computer looking at images all day to verify if they are
copyrighted or not. While our website does state that we will not WILLINGLY
reproduce any poster, etc. that is known to be copyrighted, I’d like to know if
there is something I can do to cover us in the event that we do print something
that is copyrighted.

For instance I have seen on a lot of websites where you send a photo for
printing that they have a terms of agreement that you sign that states that you
are promising that any photo you send is either your own or that you have the
permission from the copyright owner to print said photo. I am wondering if
that is all it takes to cover my shop because the last thing I want to do is be
super busy and have one of my employees print out a poster of something like
Darth Vader, only to have Disney hit us with a lawsuit and bankrupt my small
business because someone printed something that is copyrighted. We simply do
not have the time to look at every picture that is sent to us. What should we

Note I have tried to contact Warner Bros. and Disney as they have been the two
that people seem to try and copy the most. So far, neither has responded to our
inquiry to obtain licensing to print their things.

Asked on December 28, 2016 under Business Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can provide considerable protection by having terms of sale which customers agree to (by signing and/or by clicking on the "Agree to" box on a website which--
1) States that the customer is representing that they have the right to reproduce the content and are not violating any copyright or trademark--if they do this, it will help show that IF you do infringe, the infringement was innocent, which should in most cases limit any damages (compensation) to what you received from the job; and
2) States that the customer will indemnify (pay you or reimburse you) for any costs, losses, or damages you incur due to infringement--so if a customer does cause you to infringe, you could then sue them  based on the agreement to recover the money.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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