Coconut Grove, Australia

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Copyright - Lessons Learned

I have been on the Bubble since April ’08, and have so far had three works de-published by RedBubble admin, and removed several more myself due to copyright issues. I have learned a lot about Australian Copyright laws and have a better understanding about what I can and cannot upload for sale on RedBubble, and indeed other websites overseas.

Copyright infringement, according to the RedBubble User Agreement is: ‘…content that infringes the copyright or other intellectual property rights of any person or company…’

Here’s my experience in words (and pictures):

  1. 1. Don’t upload anything for sale that includes company trademarks, logos or intellectual property.

‘Consume or Die’ was de-published by admin because it obviously contains a lot of copyrighted logos.

‘Olympic Rings’ was de-published by admin because it contains significant elements of the Olympic symbol owned by the IOC. It was also seen to bring the image of the Olympic Games in to disrepute – as stated in the IOC guidelines here.

‘Paradise Drive’ was removed my myself after a request from the Honda Motoring Company because it infringed upon their ‘intellectual property’. Yes – even a model from 1975.

  1. 2. If you base an artwork or tshirt for sale on a photograph that is owned by someone else, you must get permission to use it, and you should provide a link to that photograph or artist. The difficulty with this is whether your work is signicantly based upon that photo or not – so straight ‘copy’ is definitely out – even if it’s your own drawing/painting/whatever.

‘SAS’ was de-published by admin because they thought it was too close to this painting . In fact, I had based my drawing on a photo taken in 1998 – not this painting. Alas, the Australian Defense Force owns the copyright to the photo and declined my application to post my drawing for sale because ‘it breaches the
rules on the use of Defence Commonwealth copyright imagery’.

So I hope relating my experience with Copyright on RedBubble helps answer some questions you may have had especially if you’re new to the ‘Bub. Be very careful about what you post for sale. If you’re not sure – don’t do it, or email the pic to RedBubble admin first.

If you think someone has infringed upon your own copyright go here and submit the required information to RedBubble.

For more information on Australian Copyright Law go here and read more.


  • Diesel Laws
    Diesel Lawsover 6 years ago

    Spot on. Its a tricky thing, but if you are unsure…ask or create new work.

    Nice post Vinko.

  • Thanks Diesel. Hope it helps out someone!

    – Vinko

  • IWML
    IWMLover 6 years ago

    this actually makes me sick. i am sickened that people think they OWN a red circle, a blue circle, a yellow circle, a black circle, and a green circle… i am sickened that artists are SCARED (and actually discouraged by other artists!) of making art that makes real commentary on our society – that it’s FINE for advertisers to saturate our world with ad after ad after ad (billboards, tv, posters, shirts, hats, cars, trailers…) using symbols, but if we try to respond, we’re immediately SHUT DOWN… i am sickened that awesome artists like you are being forced to remove work that is ACTUALLY COMMENTING ON INJUSTICES, and that the people perpetrating the actual injustices can SILENCE DISCUSSION, just because they have more money… i am sickened that the more-money=more-justice system that we’re living in squashes artists and silences dissent… i am sickened that people somehow are being brainwashed into thinking that creating collage isn’t “creating new work”… i am sickened that something dadaists were doing half a century ago is almost impossible to do today… i am sickened that the mindcontrollers are winning, by framing everything in a BUSINESS model, even when it should be viewed from the ART model… in short, i find the whole thing really really sad, unfair, morally repugnant, and twisted. and i can safely say that the entire IWML collective stand 100% behind me here… just try to remember that “laws” are just words written by PEOPLE, that they are not automatically morally right – that what people make, other people can undo… that we need to THINK and FEEL and REACT and CREATE and REUSE and PARODY and COMMENT – and that THAT IS WHAT ARTISTS ARE FOR.

    fight. don’t capitulate to Goliath. show the world the truth.

  • I couldn’t agree with you more IWML. It seems the only way to go is either in a highbrow art gallery (where your sense of irony earns makes big bucks), or on the street with some sweet graffiti (d*face for both examples). It sucks and is very frustrating – I don’t want to rip anyone off, I just wanna make some social commentary:(

    – Vinko

  • Nick Ford
    Nick Fordover 6 years ago

    What a coincidence ……………….. i removed 3 of my designs this morning (before reading this) as i had spoken to a photographer to request using his image for RE-DRAWING (vectorisation). He said no (which is fine) and went on to tell me that if i have used a photograph WITHOUT the photog’s permission i could get in alot of trouble ………. to the point of being sued! No thanks!

    What i want to know is there % or a certain amount of elements that have to be changed to make your piece legit?

    Got any good links Vinko?

  • Yeah, it’s pretty tricky. I can’t find a % definition out the on the internets, but what I have found here (about 3/4 down) is a start. Some of it – ‘To constitute a copyright infringement, a “copy” must be “substantially similar” to the original work. If your finished illustration looks different from
    any of the originals you used as a reference material, you shouldn’t need to obtain permission.’

    – Vinko

  • IWML
    IWMLover 6 years ago

    i know i had a big rant already, but i just had to add a few more points… ;)

    1) there’s heaps of awesome photography of buildings on redbubble – should the architects of those buildings be allowed to sue those photographers? after all, those architects DID design those buildings, and the photographs ARE using their work in an unauthorised way, and, without those buildings, the photographers have no source material. yet this is never seen as copyright infringement. (and, logically, this example can be extended to ANY humyn-made object photographed – ie, in your soldier example: the person who designed those goggles, that helmet, that gun – all are being “ripped off” by the original photographer. and i wonder – does that soldier own any copyright of HIMSELF?)

    2) buttress o’kneel (one of the founders of the IWML) has always made art 100% from other sources, and claims that ALL CREATIVITY is sampling / collage. not only creativity: she asserts that EVERYTHING is sampling. learning a language is hearing words (sampling) and reusing them again to create new sentences (collage). the way we dress – we take clothes that already exist, and rearrange them to create our own style (sampling and reuse). even EATING and GROWING are taking things that already exist, and converting them into something new (food turns into cells, processed by the biological matter-sampler). it’s all pretty extreme thought, but seems undeniably true! so, in this context, of everything that exists or EVER CAN EXIST actually already being a form of sampling and collage and reuse – in this context, doesn’t copyright law seem the dumbest fakest most ludicrous fantasyland gibberish imaginable???

    3) laws don’t change themselves, especially if they benefit corporations. laws only change through action…

    okay, thanks again – as you can tell, this is a topic close to our hearts!

  • mobii
    mobiiover 6 years ago

    I agree with IWML. Big companies use every resource they can to infiltrate our lives with the crap they are selling, but the moment we use even a small part of their “persona”, to express what we are thinking and feeling, they lose their corporate marbles. I mean seriously, is a 1975 Honda REALLY all that intellectual?

  • bchrisdesigns
    bchrisdesignsover 6 years ago

    Here in the U.S., our copyright laws protect images that are using copyrighted materials only if the design is making a statement about society. To deny an artist the right to use the McDonalds logo in a design that calls into question fast food health or, in your case, the Olympic rings to make a statement about how capitalist the Olympics really are would infringe upon our very right to freedom of speech and expression. Here, we are allowed editorial privilege so long as it comments on society AND does not cause the original organization any excessive monetary harm. I am sure your first two designs here would be covered under US copyright law because of these factors. I am not sure how Australian copyright laws are worded, though. It may be different, so I am not sure.

  • Wicking
    Wickingover 6 years ago

    Editorial privilege applies in oz too. As a professional cartoonist I’m forever depicting ‘copyrighted’ logos etc in my work. I’m allowed to under ‘fair comment’ provisions. I don’t see a problem copyright-wise with Vinko’s first two designs as they fall into this category. Not sure about the other two.

  • yanmos
    yanmosabout 6 years ago

    all this great stuff proofes how great artist are you

  • inathing
    inathingover 5 years ago

    as yet I have not placed any of my works on RB but it seems to me that in the system used by RB as far as copyright concerns any work can be objected to by anonimous sources and if the artist doesn’t respond within four days the work is removed. Having seen some great works removed from this site I can only assume that the artist is assumed guilty to begin with and has little recourse to keep the piece in.
    This seems very wrong to me as the objector could possibly be and very likely a person who feels threatened by the artist whose work is being questioned and therefore has it removed.I have observed this very recently with the removal of many great portraits and drawings of famous people.It seemed to escalate with the death of Michael Jackson and subsequent sales of some images of him. I really doubt that anyone associated with Jackson or any of his companies would have been the generating force behind these complaints.
    I love drawing and painting but wuld be concerned to put any of my work at this stage on RB as it seems anybody can have your work booted out and I wouldn’t like it at all since I spend many hours on my artworks and am quite a perfectionist as I know a lot of artists are on this site.

  • Rustyoldtown
    Rustyoldtownalmost 5 years ago

    Great post!
    I myself have had artwork removed from Zazzle that showed a boy about to be kissed by a girl and looking a bit worried, the artwork was not the problem, it was the text I put under it “First Kiss?”.
    A company said the text “First Kiss” was their trademark and Zazzle pulled the product!