I am planning on starting my own T shirt company with some catch phrases that I have come up with over the years and I wanted to include some shirts with quotes from some movies and tv shows I like. My question is: can i just put the quotes on the t shirts(no characters or titles or any other references from the show/movie) and sell them or do I need to get permission from the copyright holder and create some kind of licensing agreement. any info on this subject would be very helpful, as this seems to be kinda of a gray area. Thanks.
Ms. Koslyn is correct, but her answer fails to address the possibility that a producer could claim some form of unfair competition if your T-shirts use famous slogans from the shows or movies, that somehow suggest some endorsement or sponsorship of your product.
For example, a T-Shirt with "Use the Force, Luke!" might result in a lawsuit from Lucasfilm.
Best bet is to get permission from the rights holders.
This is not a particularly gray area of IP law. Copyright law doesn't protect titles, names, short phrases, and slogans. So as long as you don't include any images of the characters from those TV shows or films, or from those programs, or anyone's trademark, you should be ok.
But there are always exceptions to those rules. If you're not sure, see an IP lawyer before you start selling these t-shirts. A little preventative law can save you a whole lot of problems later.
Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.