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I want to design t shirts to sell , with shorts quotes from different songs is this copyrigt infridgement.

Stratford, CT |

example , If I ruled the world. Imagine that! song from Nas or She she lick me like a lollypop. song from Lil Wayne

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Attorney answers 3


Yes, probably. You would be creating a "derivative work" from the copyrighted work, which is one of the rights reserved to the rightful owner of the copyright.
Whether this derivative work would be infringing depends on something called "fair use," under which certain uses such as criticism, teaching, news reporting and research are allowed and are not infringing. This is a pretty fact intensive inquiry that analyzes the purpose and character of the use (for example, is it commercial, as your use appears to be, or is it for some non-commercial use), the nature of the copyrighted work (where the original work falls on a continuum between expressions and ideas), the amount and substantiality of the original work that was copied, and the effect on the potential market for the copyrighted work.

Since your use is commercial, copies key phrases from the songs, and would impact the original artists sales of similar t-shirts at concerts (very common), you probably won't be protected by fair use.

Before you invest *any* money in this venture, you should consult with a copyright attorney. You should certainly explore getting a license from the copyright holders if you proceed with your idea.

1. This reply is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice.
2. No attorney-client relationship has been created by this reply.
3. If you need legal advice, consult a licensed attorney in your
state to make sure you understand both your state and
federal laws concerning your issue. Your attorney will need
specific and complete facts to provide you with legal advice.


The problem here is you want to use the most recognizable parts of these musical compositions (songs), so the artists' fans will recognize those portions and buy your t-shirts instead of t-shirts sold by the artists. The songwriters (or their publisher, if their publishers are the owners of the songs) own the copyrights to those songs and therefore own the exclusive right to reproduce them, re-print, distribute, make derivative works out of them, etc.

Your proposed t-shirts are likely infringe on those copyrights.

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.


If the question is whether you can do this without risk of exposure to a copyright infringement claim, the answer is no, you cannot.

Not only this, but regardless of how good a copyright lawyer you get and how good his or her advice is, you may regret relying on such a business model anyway because you would likely be served with a cease and desist letter or sued, or both, by the copyright holders if you come onto their radar -- even if, based on the advice of sage counsel, you are acting within your rights. Unfortunately, being right does not always matter if you can't afford the justice to which you are entitled.