I create desktop wallpaper images of professional sports teams and would like to eventually create large prints, possibly sell them online. Can I do this legally, even if the team logos are tweaked slightly or the players likenesses are obscured (Photoshopped) enough?
Patent Application Attorney
Legally speaking, without an express license from the teams and the players, you cannot do what you propose for any commercial reason whatsoever. No exceptions.
USPTO Registered Patent Attorney, Master of Intellectual Property law, MBA I am neither your attorney, nor my answers or comments in AVVO.com create an attorney-client relationship with you. You may accept or disregard my free advice in AVVO.com at your own risk. I am a Patent Attorney, admitted to the USPTO and to the Florida Bar.
You can do so but there is 100% guarantee you will be sued by the teams. Use some common sense here.
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You would be infringing the rights of both the professional sports leagues (use of team names and logos) and the players' association (use of players' likenesses and numbers). You would also be infringing the derivative copyrights of the image owner, because I am assuming that you did not take the original photographic image. Sports leagues are vigilant about policing their intellectual properties, so you will eventually get a cease and desist letter if you sell these types of images.
I am a big NFL and NBA fan, and I am pretty confident that I could identify the teams, logos and players you are using in your photoshopped images. If I can identify them, then others can too. These types of usages will expose you to liability. You could potentially be okay if you used a public domain image (if there are any) and then significantly blurred everything to the point where nothing is identifiable, but then what is the point of the creation?
Why not just license an image for this type of commercial purpose? See the Shutterstock link below for some examples.
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