Print on Demand & IP: To Print or Not To Print ? | Burley Law
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Blog post on on demand printing
August 31, 2022

Have you ever thought about printing a custom design onto your clothes? By doing so, you may be at risk of infringing copyright as the image could be treated as an artistic work. 

What is copyright? And why is print on demand involved with copyright? 

Copyright is an intellectual property right which protects various original works, including images, designs or literature. 

Print on demand allows individuals to easily print copyright protected material to order using digital technology. Whilst this is a quick and efficient way to customise clothing, it can be detrimental to  artists who depend on their work for their livelihood.

What can happen if I print a protected work without permission? 

The copyright owner (or more commonly, their agent who specialises in this area) may claim monetary compensation, require that you stop what you are doing and even that you destroy or give to them any infringing copies. In some cases, trading standards or the police will get involved and commence a criminal investigation. The criminal law is not straightforward, but importantly, making infringing copies can be an offence even where this is not in the course of business.  

How can you avoid violating intellectual property rights? 

You may need to contact the owner or an agency working on their behalf to get permission to use an image. 

There are online repositories, such as Creative Commons, which facilitate sharing and distribution of content without payment of a fee by the user, but you should be sure to understand and comply with the specific licence terms.  For example, you may have to credit the original photographer, use may be limited to non-commercial activities or you may not be able to alter the image. 

If you would like to know more on how you can protect your work, or how to prevent putting yourself and/or your business at risk of violating intellectual property rights, get in touch with our Intellectual Property and Tech lawyer Des.