As a person that has had a #1 selling tee shirt design on the Merch By Amazon platform, I can attest to the fact of people stealing designs via the pixel for pixel method. It can be very frustrating and the simple fact is that you don’t always know how Amazon will handle this from day to day or case to case.
Sure there is copyright law but having a copyright and enforcing a copyright are two different things. It gets really muddy when Amazon is involved. It is more about how Amazon enforces copyright and in this post I want to show a simple, 1 minute or less technique that probably 99.9% of the people are not using that might just sway Amazon to rule in your favor when and if one of your tee shirt designs are hijacked.
Before we begin, I want to cover some basics on copyright ( and I need to fill some space in this post)
You can download a copy of the copyright basics from the official government copyright site here:
Straight from the government:
“Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S.Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works”
So your original tee shirt design would fall under artistic works.
Again straight from the government:
“Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work”
So if you are sitting at your laptop at 2AM and create a tee shirt design, it is automatically copyrighted to you.
“Publication is no longer the key to obtaining federal copyright as it was under the Copyright Act of 1909.”
When you create a design, you don’t have to do anything to get it copyright like people had to do in the past.
Copyright is what we are going to use to help prove to Amazon that we were the creator of a design and legal copyright holder in the event that we have people stealing our designs.
Using Copyright Symbol In Our Designs
“The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law, although it is often beneficial.”
This is what we are going to do because as it said, it is beneficial.
“Form of Notice for Visually Perceptible Copies
The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all the following three elements:
1 The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”; and
2 The year of first publication of the work. In the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful article; and
3 The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.
Example: © 2011 John Doe”
Do you have a copyright notice on any of your stolen designs? I am guessing 99.9% of the people reading this don’t.
Adding Copyright Notices
We are going to add copyright notices to all our designs. This will not take away anything from the design because outside of the Merch world it is common practice for all companies to place copyright and trademark symbols on their products.
Image if I have someone steal my design pixel for pixel, it will also contain my copyright notice. When I contact Amazon, it is a slam dunk case when the image of the other Merch seller says
Copyright Jason Wilkey 2017
The common practice is to place the notice at the bottom of the image. I simply have this notice saved on my desktop and drag it to the template just prior to saving the image to be uploaded. This might require changing the text color or resizing it slightly, but this should take less than 30 seconds.
Now I would guess that some of the design thieves might get wise to this, so to have a little fun, we can actually move this into the body of the design and use it to delete out some areas of color ( this is easier to see on the video) Basically you can have “hidden messages” with your designs. ( this is also fun to do with other text messages if you are immature and sophomoric like me)
This video show what I am talking about
While we don’t know for sure what Amazon will do in every case, by adding the copyright notice to every image we create ( which we are legally entitled to do) , this is almost absolute proof that you own the image design and i would believe that Amazon would be hard pressed to deny this.
This is a very simple technique that most people overlook because it is not something we are use to doing as opposed to traditional businesses. Take the extra minute or so to include this and add some protection to your designs.