I designed a graphic design to be used to print tee shirts in 2015 for my friend who was just starting to make music. I did it for free, we agreed to use the design just to print 100 tee shirts. I told him I didn’t want compensation, and I told him just to credit me for being the designer. Those were the only 100 shirts that design ever got printed on. From 2015-2018, this artist starting blowing up more and more. By 2018, he was a mainstream name. Touring Europe, selling out every concert. 6 million Instagram followers. 250+ million streams on Spotify. Collaborating with Fall Out Boy, Blink182, and other huge names. Even making Billboard 100 with 2 songs and an album. He was HUGE. He eventually signed to a very reputable music label. In 2018, he passed away. His music label bought his estate, and own half of it with his mother. They still release music and merchandise and his fan base is still international. Last month, they somehow found the design I made for him in 2015 in his email, and decided to print shirts and hoodies completely without my consent or asking for licensing or agreements with me. I have had it copyrighted for over a year now so I legally own it. What do I do?
Assuming there's enough "art" to be copyrightable you should register your copyright. The statute of limitations is three years on damages, so take prompt action. Retain a copyright lawyer.
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It's not possible to buy an "estate," so maybe you mean intellectual property assets, or maybe you mean something else.
At any rate, it doesn't sound like you licensed the design to the artist exclusively, so you should still have a claim against whoever erroneously assumed that the artist owned the copyright to your design.
Consult a copyright litigator ASAP with a copy of your U.S. Copyright Office registration and copies of your 2015 emails. If you had the registration prior to the acts of infringement, you'll be entitled to statutory damages, plus your attorney fees, so you should have no problem finding a good litigator.
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You retain an expereinced copyright attorney, preferrably with entertainment expereince and go get your rightful share of all royalties and profits from your copyright protected work. Good for you and don't let them get away with it. The attorney will know exactly where and who to talk with. If you don't know one, click on the find a lawyer tab and start looking at profiles, read client reviews and call/talk with a few to find one you want to work with.
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