How to copyright your t-shirt designs

Copyright protection automatically attaches to an original work of authorship from the moment of creation and fixation. Under the current law, no action need to taken to secure copyright protection – neither publication, registration or the use of notice. There are, however, advantages to registering a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, and a work of U.S. origin must be registered before an infringement suit can be filed. Registration may be made at anytime within the life of the copyright. Registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright.

copyrightThe advantages of registration include:

  • Establishes a public record of the copyright claim;
  • Allows the general public to confirm the owner of a copyright and permits those seeking to purchase or license copyrights to find the appropriate owner;
  • Meets the registration requirement necessary to file an infringement suit for works of U.S. origin;
  • If made before or within five years of publication, establishes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright; and
  • If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or any time prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions (otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner).

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So once you design it and put it on a shirt it’s copyrighted. You don’t need to do anything. However registering your work with the US Copyright Office is needed if you want to file a suit against someone.

How do I register a copyright for t shirt design?

Registration is achieved by submitting the proper application form and a non-refundable filing fee to the U.S. Copyright Office along with a non-returnable copy of the work (one copy if the work is unpublished or of type that the Library of Congress does not collect; two copies if the work is published and collected by the Library of Congress) to the U.S. Copyright Office. Applications for registration can be submitted electronically or still by regular mail, although fees are lower and processing times much faster if filed electronically.