copyright question concerning t shirts

Submitted by soupsnake on July 30th, 2010 at 10:10 PM


EDIT: Apparently it's very illegal. Oh well, would've been fun.


Last night I posted my version of a t shirt concept to help out the OP of this thread

After receiving an overwhelming show of support for the idea I decided it might be a good idea to actually have these printed and try to sell them before the first game of the season.  My brother convinced me that the shirts would need something on the front of them so I came up with the design below.


Here's my question. Is this even legal? I purposefully made sure not to use the block M and I erased the names on the jerseys. I can't imagine that writing the name of our state on a shirt is illegal, but I'm no lawyer...

So before I spend a bunch of money to have these made will somebody please let me know if this is a good idea, or a one way ticket to bummer-city-town.




July 30th, 2010 at 10:24 PM ^

Technically, you cannot use a person's name and likeness in a commercial venture without the person's permission. RR might not care or, if you keep it small, he might not even notice. But, technically, you cannot use his name and face to sell something with the goal of making a profit without his permission.


July 30th, 2010 at 10:42 PM ^

Many exceptions exist to the general rule. For example, you can use a person's name and likeness for a news purpose even if you are making a profit. Likewise, you can parody a celebrity or public official.

Not sure if the "Tressel drinks wine coolers" fits into one of the exceptions (I have not seen the shirt or whatever the item is), but it also is possible Tressel just lets it go. He would actually look pretty small and petty (and thin skinned) if he sued a MIchigan fan for creating a tshirt that mocked him.

As for the OP's shirt, it is not a parody. It is not political speech. It is not a news purpose. I am pretty sure it is a simple case of the OP using RR's name and likeness to make a profit. If RR wanted to make a fuss, he could.

Six Zero

July 30th, 2010 at 10:27 PM ^

But between the actual school name, the winged helmets on the players, the Rich likeness and certainly last but not least the Adidas motif across the back...

But if you printed this, and the school found out about it, you could possibly lose your house.  You're using branded identities that belong to them without their permission.  Essentially you're stealing from the University of Michigan.

Trust me, if anyone knows how hard it is to design Michigan shirts without using any official Michigan intellectual property, it is I.  For what it's worth, however, pretty nice design.

Six Zero

July 30th, 2010 at 10:39 PM ^

I should have phrased it above as "if you printed and SOLD IT FOR PROFIT."  They'd most likely be good sports and send you an immediate ceast & desist, and if they found any evidence of you persisting beyond that, then the sharks would begin to circle.... and of course, by sharks I mean lawyers.

Design looks good-- if I could offer a criticism, I'd suggest losing that second color in the Rich likeness if you could.  As it currently stands that's two color artwork on a blue shirt, which will jack up printing costs despite the fact that you can probably re-work it to use only a single maize spot plate.  Extra colors always mean extra money.  But aesthetically speaking, I like it.


July 30th, 2010 at 10:50 PM ^

Yeah I think we'll just have to let this one go. I'm not really in the position to be fighting any expensive legal battles. 

I messed around with the second color, trying to get it down to just one, but I really didn't like the way it turned out. I figured that if they ever went to print I'd just eat the 93 cents per shirt in profit that we'd lose on the extra color, and hope that the greater detail would be a selling point for somebody.


July 30th, 2010 at 11:02 PM ^

When Michigan or Adidas sends out those "cease and desist" letters or goes further and actually sues someone for trademark infringement, they are not just being dickheads. If the holder of a trademark does not make a good faith effort to defend the mark, they can lose it. In many cases, it probably costs Michigan and Adidas more in legal fees and administrative costs to send out those letters and shut down small violators than it is really worth to them in an economic sense, but they are required to do so or they risk losing the exclusive right to use their mark.


July 30th, 2010 at 10:38 PM ^

Would it be illegal to make a few of these for you and some friends with absolutely zero profit?  If you're not making money, it shouldn't be illegal, right or wrong?


July 31st, 2010 at 12:26 PM ^

Well, not totally, but assuming we lose at least one game on the schedule, we could still pass it off as revenge.  Hopefully the Boys in Blue don't go winning ALL of their games this year and ruin our shirt idea! *open sobbing*