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I'm posting here, because I'd like to do something but I'm concerned about the legal aspect of it.

A lot of websites propose to sell t-shirts, goodies, etc. based on your designs. I'd like to sell t-shirts with the direwolve emblem of the "House Stark" in Game of Thrones, and of course, I've been immediately asking myself if HBO which produces the serie actually had some copyright on that emblem. I've searched a lot, but didn't found anything.

I also saw this video, where a girl who used a simple sentence from the serie was threatened to be sued, so you get my point : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4032504/Game-Thrones-threatens-SUE-autistic-schoolgirl-13-girl-used-phrase-winter-coming-artwork-competition.html

Of course I do not intend to use some copyrighted content, so that's why I'm asking, but how to know what can be used freely ? what sentence ? what sigil ? For example can a sentence as "The North Remembers" be copyrighted if there's no image under it ?

Thanks for all your legal advices !

  • Give this a read. It'll describe a few basics that I think answer much of your post. muzique.com/copyright.htm – Broots Waymb Aug 22 '17 at 18:28
  • @DangerZone I appreciate that the OP is asking a pretty basic copyright/trademark question but the purpose of the site is to provide answers not links to answers. Please expand your comment into an answer and post it. – Dale M Aug 22 '17 at 21:33
  • Presume all creative works are copyrighted unless you can prove they are not (e.g., material not "creative" enough, or had its copyright expired 95 years after publication, or whatever applies in your country). Your question appears to be more about permitted uses by fans, which is completely up to the copyright owners. Many do not object until others start to profit from their copyrighted works (e.g., the people printing shirts for money without asking to see the license from the copyright owners). Are you trying to ask about "royalty-free" copying? – Upnorth Aug 23 '17 at 19:44
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I'd like to sell t-shirts with the direwolve emblem of the "House Stark" in Game of Thrones, and of course, I've been immediately asking myself if HBO which produces the serie actually had some copyright on that emblem.

This is not a close case.

Your proposal, or anything remotely similar, would almost certainly constitute a copyright violation and result in a lawsuit by the producers of the show if not done with a license from the company. They would easily win this lawsuit. The damages that they were awarded would greatly exceed the amount of profits you made from your sales (realistically, more than a $1,000 per T-Shirt plus many tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees and costs would be typical). You would probably have to go bankrupt and some or all of the damages award against you might survive bankruptcy because your copyright violation was an intentional act.

Every episode of the TV show is a copyrighted work and what you are proposing would be a "derivative work" since it is derived from the copyrighted TV show. Derivative works made without a license from a a copyright holder are a violation of copyright laws.

There are also probably myriad specifically trademarked symbols and phrases that are registered with the appropriate government official (the Patent and Trademark Office for U.S. trademarks). So, it is highly likely that there would be a trademark violation as well if a license was not obtained.

Your basic business model is at its very heart and essence fundamentally illegal. There is nothing you can do to fix it without getting written permission from the publishers who have probably long ago sold the rights to do this to somebody else for an immense amount of money.

You should abandon this idea and try to come up with another business venture instead.

  • To add to this: The phrase "The North Remembers" will also be copyright if it is a motto in GoT (I have never seen it). If it is three words of no particular significance that happen to be spoken a couple of, then probably not. The question is "Would anyone seeing the slogan immediately think of GoT?". – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 23 '17 at 9:04
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    @MartinBonner: It's an episode title (S02E01) referring to a recurring saying in GoT. Yes, it very much is tied to GoT. Would it be copyright violation? If I created a T-shirt "18-09-2014 The North Remembers", I might argue it isn't. But the quote in isolation is a copyright violation. – MSalters Oct 24 '17 at 21:50
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    @MartinBonner Actually a short phrase, including a title, is never protected by copyright. It might, however, be protected as a trademark. – David Siegel Aug 10 at 22:52

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