If I’m starting my own clothing brand, how do I find out what I can and cannot use as images on my shirts?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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If I’m starting my own clothing brand, how do I find out what I can and cannot use as images on my shirts?

Can I use anything that I find on Google images? Is it illegal to use clip art that I find on other websites?

Asked on November 7, 2015 under Business Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You can't use anything trademarked or copyrighted by anyone else. Sometimes it's not easy, especially on the internet, to confirm exactly who owns the image and check with that person for copyright/trademark, but a good rule of thumb is: you can't use it unless it specifically states that it is in the public domain or available for use. Any photo a person takes, art someone creates, sketch, drawing, image, etc. will by copyright that person or his/her employer (or possibly of a third party, if they then sold the image), unless the owner(s) specifically made it available to public use. And clip art in particular is almost *never* available for free use: people make money on clip art by licensing it for a fee for certain very specific uses or purposes. If you want to have images you can safely use for certain, have your own images made (e.g. take your own photos or hire a photographer; create your own drawings or hire an artist; etc.).

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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