Can I use quotes from rappers on clothing and sell them?
1 attorney answer
Probably not. Many musical compositions are co-written by more than one songwriter, and compositions' copyrights are owned by the songwriter(s) music publisher(s), who often have entire licensing departments of their companies devoted to negotiating and administering licenses for l;yrics and music.
So while short quotes typically aren't eligible for copyright protection and too "de minimis" (trivial) to be protected or sued over, some lyrics are so famous, and so associated with an artist, that that's an exception.
That association also implicates trademark infringement. Recording artists typically sell their own clothing, and have their own rapper "PKA" name ("professionally known as") name) registered for clothing under trademark class 25.
Still another concern is the rappers' state law "publicity" rights, which is the exclusive right of everyone, not just celebrities, to monetize their own name and likeness and persona. If you use lyrics closely identified as from an artist, I'd expect them to sue you for violating their publicity rights, as well as infringing their copyright (of they're a songwriter) and trademark rights.
Consult your own IP counsel to acquire your own IP rights, and avoid infringing anyone else's.
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