LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Giselle Ayala

Can I use part of lyrics to make T-shirts?

Before you know whether you can use part of a lyric or a short phrase to incorporate it into the design of your T-shirts, keep in mind that copyright is a legal right that protects the use of the creator's work. An author is the first person authorized to use any or all of his work. Additionally, even if the use of the part is so insubstantial so that it does not raise legal issues under copyright law, a short phrase may be protected under trademark law, and that other theories such as unjust enrichment may be used to challenge the use of a part of a song or a short phrase without authorization. So, before using it, do your research and preferably, use works that are in the public domain and are not protected under trademark law.

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