Do I own the rights to a design I made on Zazzle?
November 5, 2010 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Design rip-off advice needed. I made a few tshirt designs on Zazzle, and have been making a little extra money with one recent design in particular. Today I found that someone is selling nearly the same design on They are too similar for it to be a coincidence. Do I have any right to ask them to take it down?

I quickly created a tshirt design a few weeks ago with the recent political season in mind. I have sold several of them; not major money but every little bit helps. Today I found this design for sale at

They are too similar for it to be a coincidence. Not that mine is anything special design-wise, but the way the font colors and silhouette are nearly identical makes it clear they looked and mine and then made theirs. Do I have any rights to my designs on sites like this? Can I ask them to remove theirs?

To be fair, I am profiting from someone else's quotes, so I can see clearly that I have no rights to the phrase "the rent is too damn high". I understand adding in the "karate expert" part does not make it a unique thing. But the particular way I used them are unique, so I feel like I should I least be able to ask people not to directly duplicate my ideas.

I think this shirt has had its 15 minutes, but I want to know in case this happens again in the future. Its not a huge deal but if I'm going to make any more shirts I would like to better understand if anything would prevent other people from making duplicates of future designs.
posted by halseyaa to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Follow these instructions and see what happens.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:20 AM on November 5, 2010

Yeah that is really obviously a rip-off and you should definitely contact tshirthub. Can't promise anything will be done about it -- I doubt this is a matter you'd be willing to take legal action over -- but you shouldn't let it stand. Attach your confirmation email from Zazzle as proof that your design was earlier.
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on November 5, 2010

Unfortunately, Tshirthub's policy specifically states that they don't read attachments, so the OP will need to be creative in including supporting documents.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:32 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's clearly your design to protect, but as you probably know, T shirt piracy is rampant and hard to police (just ask any popular band or sports team). Never mind websites. Your design may even be being sold on the street outside a dozen subway stops and you would have no idea...

Since you are thinking about the future, your best strategy is likely to get your design out in front of the pirates in the biggest, loudest way possible. I'm not saying don't protect your design. You can fight T shirt piracy, but there are hundreds of shady merch sites and thousands of street corners and you will running around trying to stop people who are quite talented at being evasive.
posted by quarterframer at 11:48 AM on November 5, 2010

Looks like the shirt was removed from
posted by puritycontrol at 12:04 PM on November 5, 2010

See also 'You Thought We Wouldn't Notice,' the blog of plagiarist busting.
posted by eccnineten at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @inspector.gadget - thanks! not sure why I has so much trouble finding that myself but I did send them an email! The link to the other shirt is no longer working so maybe they read my email. If so, that was really fast!

@quarterframer - Good point about the off-line vendors and such. Didn't even consider that possibility. I'm brand new to tshirts and was naive enough not to think of people just scanning other sites and duplicating.
posted by halseyaa at 12:18 PM on November 5, 2010

The websites themselves rarely want to get involved.

You certainly do have a right to bring this up, and to ask them to stop reproducing the design. As an illustrator I come by this issue so often, and have found that small pests (ie, imitators who are not large companies or corporations) can be dealt with by sending them a simple cease and desist letter. If you also run a personal blog or website, you could mention the issue there, also.

I hope you can work something out.
Copyright theft is the plague of indie businesses online.
posted by noella at 2:49 PM on November 5, 2010

Best answer: If you plan on continuing to make shirt designs, join all the user-submitted shops you can, and submit the same design everywhere at once. At least you'll be able to prevent people from ripping off your design through one avenue, even if you can't get to the street-corner sellers or the sites that steal designs and print as their own. And you might even make some more money for minimal additional effort.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:18 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

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