How can I make t-shirts with baby skeletons in it and make sure I am not violating any copyright? 7 Answers as of October 14, 2013

I am wanting to make a t shirt with a baby skeleton at the tummy area. I see these on the internet. My question is, if someone has a copy right of the skeleton that looks different than the one I designed, but same concept since it's a skeleton, is that a violation? Does this person own all baby skeletons at the tummy area? I'm confused. How different design does my design need to be to be fair? Thanks.

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Mark S. Hubert PC
Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
Copyright only protects the actual expression of the idea not the idea. For example photographs of say the Empire State Building are on postcards and are copyrighted to the photographer that took that photo. You cant sell postcards with the exact photo made from the same negative but you can take your own photo of the ESB and sell it as it will be copyrighted as your own expression.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 10/14/2013
Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. | Ernie Linek
Be creative and design your own version of the skeleton - do not copy someone else. That is the secret to copyright - your concept is your property. Another person's concept is their property. The first person to have a skeleton drawing on a t-shirt does owns nothing more than "that version" of a skeleton.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 10/10/2013
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
One can copyright an expression but not the underlying idea. So someone can copyright a stylized skeleton on the bottom half of a t-shirt but not the overall idea of a fetus' skeleton placed over the part of a t-shirt that would cover a woman's stomach. Your skeleton must be different enough that it does not duplicate another's skeleton.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 10/9/2013
Webb IP Law Group
Webb IP Law Group | Jason P Webb
A good way to avoid copyright violation is to make sure that whoever is designing/drawing a design is not looking at or copying from a design/drawing by someone else. Create from your own mind.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 10/9/2013
Law Office of Kirk Buhler
Law Office of Kirk Buhler | Kirk A Buhler
Unfortunately the only way to make sure is to sell the t-shirts and see if you receive a cease and deist letter. There could be hundreds of designs that are available any a someone may that you are copying their design. One of the safest ways would be to start with an ultrasound or x-ray of your actual child (or one that gives you authorization) then sketch, trace or Photoshop the image to achieve a desired appearance. Using this method you could document where the image came from and help avoid someone saying that you copied their artwork or copyright. A copyright is an "artistic expression" and would not cover ALL baby skeletons in a tummy area. The copyright would be restricted to a specific artistic expression or image that was created by an artist. Your ability to prove that your image came from an actual x-ray or ultrasound as opposed to a copy or duplication.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 10/9/2013
    Michael M. Ahmadshahi
    Michael M. Ahmadshahi | Michael M. Ahmadshahi, Ph.D., Esq.
    Tummy skeleton is not copyrightable but maybe trademarked, and If it hasn't been trademarked then perhaps you could apply for one tho the entire subject matter could be subject to first amendment protection in which case anyone, including you, could use it.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/9/2013
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