Copyright and celebrities...

Clayton Wadsworth Clayton Wadsworth 17 posts

I have a big question.

I have made 50+ dollars on redbubble so far selling shirts with cartoons of famous popstars on them.

Now there has never been a problem with those shirts and any copyright issues with the fact I am using their likeness and their names.
Knock on wood HOWEVER, today I got a shirt pulled that featured a hand drawn character from “The Hunger Games” featuring a quote from the book/movie, for copyright infringement.

I have seen a few dozen shirts featuring the same character, some of which are using actual images from the movie (Which you KNOW they didn’t take themselves), and some featuring the same quote. They’re all still online, yet mine which was original content drawn by me, somehow crossed an invisible line and was pulled.

I don’t have any interest in taking this to court, but I am confused.

I have read the help section, the section about copyright and many google web searches on the topic.

Is there any way I can find out what is a breach of copyright and what isn’t?
Why can this website sell DOZENS of shirts featuring pictures of Lady Gaga that we all know the artist didn’t take them,
and yet my cartoon was yanked?

I feel extremely frustrated not knowing whether a piece I will potentially spend 20+ hours on will just get pulled after less than 24 hours of being posted.


MLabuda MLabuda 6986 posts

A breach of copyright, is when, a copyright holder, finds a work of their used without their permission.

Not all copyright holders object to their works being used.

A copyright holder, can file a DMCA complaint and the site takes down the work, while other, works remain, till the copyright holder of those works files a complaint.

© Joe  Beasley IPA © Joe Beasley... 3921 posts

Cartoons of famous popstars may involve their Right of Publicity

BYRON BYRON 12082 posts

Hiya Clayton,

You are correct in so far as you can use the image of a person for profit [but not Commercial Purposes] – without their permission, and of course there is no copyright issue because you can not copyright a person.

However… the hand drawn character from Hunger Games is a whole other issue.

Copyright protects the expression of an idea in its tangible sense.

It is a common misconception that copyright only covers the image itself… and while it certainly does cover the original image, it also protects how that “idea” is expressed in the form of “Derivative Works”… Basically, you can not create your own version of something that someone else has created first, and publish it – without their permission.

In regards to other works similar to yours being still on RedBubble, you have to understand the process to understand why those works are still online.

RedBubble do not police the site for infringing works, and they are [generally] not required to do so. An image is only removed by RedBubble once they have received a DMCA Takedown Notice from the Copyright owner or their appointed agent.

Any works that are still on RedBubble may still be here for several reasons, the most likely being that so far – RedBubble has not received a Takedown Notice for those works.

Is there any way I can find out what is a breach of copyright and what isn’t?


Sure… Generally if it is based on something that someone else did first – then it will probably be a breach of copyright.

Copyright is a fairly long and involved topic, but it can be made simple enough for most of people, most of the time. Check out these Tutorials…




MLabuda MLabuda 6986 posts

There is a requirement for any site to check copyright?

Courts have placed this action, squarely on the copyright holders.

BYRON BYRON 12082 posts

There is a requirement for any site to check copyright?


If a website is aware of a serial infringer [for example], then they are obliged to do something about it… but then for them to be aware of the serial infringer they would have to have been notified by the copyright owner or their agent first…

Otherwise, no – they are not required to police their sites for possible copyright infringements…. only those of which they are aware.

MLabuda MLabuda 6986 posts

I asked, as, we sometimes compare apples and oranges.

Keeping an eye on specific infringement or the failure, too, fails into safe harbor claims.

Here, we have a person who had a work taken down by the copyright holder, or alleged copyright holder.

Clayton Wadsworth Clayton Wadsworth 17 posts

Thanks for all your help guys!

I guess I will just try to play it more safe next time, or just not do any more cartoons of huge movie characters.

Clayton Wadsworth Clayton Wadsworth 17 posts


What is the difference between using a person’s image for profit, and using it for commercial purposes?

One is okay, and one is bad, but to me they sound pretty similar? Hahaha

© Joe  Beasley IPA © Joe Beasley... 3921 posts

A recent US court discision that helps explain. Editorial/artistic use is more protected then advertising/trade use. Selling a photograph may be ok, but the same image on a coffee mug is likely to be a no no! It is seen as a mundane item that the art adds value to, where the photograph would be seen as “speech”

BYRON BYRON 12082 posts

“Commercial Purposes” means using the image of a person to promote [advertise] another Person, Product or Enterprise.

You can however use the image of a person to make a profit – in so far as: if you took the photo of a person then you can sell that image and make a profit…. basically … but there is a lot more to it than that.

Of course you can not use someone else’s image of a person or your version of their image to make a profit.

I guess I will just try to play it more safe next time, or just not do any more cartoons of huge movie characters.


The rules apply for famous or not-so-famous celebrities.

I would suggest that if you are about to go to Design College… perhaps work on creating your own unique characters instead.

Clayton Wadsworth Clayton Wadsworth 17 posts


Haha I guess.

I think i’m going to stick to pop stars for t-shirts though.
That is where the money seems to be for me.

MLabuda MLabuda 6986 posts

Be aware of what Sony did with a person who made video clips using content from Sony. The company let the person amass a lot of clips and then sued the person for damages.

Clayton Wadsworth Clayton Wadsworth 17 posts


I just got nailed for copyright again, this time for my most popular shirt that has sold like 10.
I re-uploaded it without the singer’s name at the top, but it still features lyrics from the song.

This should hopefully be better,
because there are similar shirts still up on the site featuring the same lyrics, and yet mine are semi-covered by the cartoon,
so you can barely read them. (See my Beez In The Trap shirt for context).