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How To Legally Use Other People’s Photos For Your Customized T-Shirt

February 01, 2023

Believe it or not, many folks use other people’s pictures as the print for their t-shirts. Is that legal? Well, it depends. You see, using a picture that is not yours for personal or commercial reasons without the owner's permission can lead to copyright infringement. 

It doesn’t matter which country you’re in now, and the law will not be on your side once you’re caught stealing the products of other people’s creativity for your gain. 

But before you close this tab and lose hope, you should know that there are still ways you can turn other people’s pictures into wonderful designs for your customized t-shirts. 

Are you interested in finding out what they are? Then read the following.

Obtain a license or permission from the copyright owner

Getting a license or permission from the owner of the photo's copyright is one of the easiest ways to legally use it on your custom T-shirt. Usually, this means getting in touch with the photographer or person who owns the rights to the photo, explaining how you want to use it, and negotiating the license terms. Some people who own the rights to their photos may charge a fee to use them, while others may be willing to let you use them for free.

Use Creative Commons licensed photos

Creative Commons is a non-profit group that lets people use photos and other creative works in certain ways through copyright licenses. There are many kinds of Creative Commons licenses, each with its rules and requirements.

For instance, some Creative Commons licenses let you use the photo for commercial purposes, while others don't. When you use a Creative Commons-licensed photo, it's important to read the license's terms and follow the rules.

Use Public Domain photos

Photos that are in the public domain can be used by anyone, for any reason, without a license or permission. The U.S. government made most photos in the public domain, are very old, or have lost their copyright.

But keep in mind that different countries have different rules about when copyrights end. When using a photo in the public domain, it is important to make sure that it is in the public domain and that there are no rules about how it can be used.

Use photos with a model release

A model release is a piece of paper that says it's okay to use a photo in a certain way. When using a photo with a model release, it is important to read the terms of the release and make sure you follow all of the rules.

Because a model release usually only permits certain kinds of use, like commercial use, and may not permit other kinds, like using the photo in a political campaign.

Use photos that are considered "fair use"

If the use is considered "fair use," it may be possible to use a photo without getting a license or permission. Fair use is a legal concept that says it's okay to use copyrighted material for certain things, like criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

Fair use, however, is a complicated and nuanced idea, and it can be hard to tell whether a certain use is fair. Fair use is usually decided on a case-by-case basis, and it is always best to talk to a lawyer before relying on it.

Take your own photographs

Last but not least, you can use other people's photos legally on your custom T-shirt by taking your pictures. Gives you full control over the photo and removes the need to ask someone else for a license or permission. It also lets you take photos of exactly what you want and ensure they are good quality.

FAQs

 

Is it legal to use other people's pictures for custom T-shirts?

It depends, using a picture without the owner's permission can lead to copyright infringement.

How to legally use someone else's photo on a custom T-shirt?

  • Obtain a license or permission from the copyright owner
  • Use Creative Commons licensed photos
  • Use public domain photos
  • Use photos with a model release
  • Use photos that are considered "fair use"
  • Take your own photographs

How to get a license or permission from the copyright owner?

Contact the photographer or person who owns the rights to the photo, explain how you want to use it, and negotiate the license terms.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a non-profit group that lets people use photos and other creative works in certain ways through copyright licenses.

What are the different types of Creative Commons licenses?

Attribution (CC BY)

This allows others to use the work for any purpose, even commercially, as long as they give credit to the creator.

Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

This allows others to use the work for any purpose, including commercially, as long as they give credit to the creator and license any derivative works under the same terms.

Attribution-NoDerivatives (CC BY-ND)

This allows others to use the work for any purpose, including commercially, as long as they give credit to the creator and do not make any changes to the work.

Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

This allows others to use the work for non-commercial purposes only, as long as they give credit to the creator.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

This allows others to use the work for non-commercial purposes only, as long as they give credit to the creator and license any derivative works under the same terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

This allows others to use the work for non-commercial purposes only, as long as they give credit to the creator and do not make any changes to the work.

Is it always safe to use photos that are considered "fair use"?

No, fair use is a complicated and nuanced idea and it's best to talk to a lawyer before relying on it.