Q: I want to sell t shirts that have small snippets of a lyric (1-5 words) on them. Is this copyright infringement?
For example, a song reads: "a nice big plate of/Fish, which is my favorite dish/But without no money, it's still a wish." My shirt has a picture of fried fish and the words, "which is my favorite dish."
Using small snippets of lyrics from a song can potentially lead to issues with copyright infringement. Copyright law protects the expression of original ideas, including song lyrics, and using any part of them without permission might be considered a violation of the copyright holder's rights.
However, there is a doctrine in copyright law known as "fair use" which permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Factors to consider here include the purpose of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Given that your use is commercial (selling t-shirts) and involves a verbatim excerpt, albeit a short one, it is advisable to err on the side of caution and either seek permission from the copyright holder or use content that is not subject to copyright. You might consult with a legal professional to assess the risk more fully based on the specific circumstances and details of what you plan to do. It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to potential copyright infringement.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.