Apparel Graphic Academy

Understanding Copyrights

What is a copyright?

It is a federal law which protects anyone who creates an original work (s) from anyone copying, redistribution, or using it without permission from the originator.

Who owns a copyright?

  • If you created it you own it.
  • If you created it for someone else they own it.
  • If someone makes it for you (subcontractor) you own it.
  • If you are working for someone and you create something original your employer owns it.

How do I file a copyright?

  • Filing a copyright is quite easy. Go to the website
  • A copyright registration costs $30.00

How long does a copyright last?

  • A copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author.

Legal recourse

  • If you are the owner of a copyright and find someone infringing on your rights you might want to seek legal help.
  • First determine how were you damaged and have you suffered enough before engaging an attorney. A good attorney can charge up to $25,000.00 to represent you.
  • The easiest way is to first send a cease and desist letter to state your position.

Better Safe than sorry

  • If someone asks you to reproduce and art be sure he or she has permission to get it replicated. All sports teams issue a license to reproduce their logos. You should ask for a copy of the license to protect your potential liability.

Some interesting trademark violations.

A embroidery company in Chicago was embroidery New Era caps with the White Sox logo. This was 100% illegal because New Era had the license but they did not grant it to the violator. The result was losing their embroider machines and a fine because they were essentially counterfeiting product.

I received a cease and desist letter for a design we were making and selling. The design was a simple wine design which read “Whip Me Crush Me Make Me Wine. I brushed the letter off and later received a more serious one. I went to a trademark attorney and he said he could defend me for $10,000.00. It was easier to stop, apologize, and pay the company $1,200.00 for a trademark violation.

Jim Mickelson

CEO Northwest Custom Apparel