Can I start an online business, where i sell Rock band merchandise without the band's permission? I have noticed that there are online shops in China that sell rock music merchandise for cheap. Can I use them as a supplier and sell their products without taking permission from the bands, whose names and album art they print on their merch.

Will I be infringing on any copyright, or will the supplier be the one breaking the law?

  • Regardless of whether you're infringing copyright, you'll certainly be infringing on the bands' trademark rights. – phoog Jul 29 '19 at 0:30
  • @phoog That assumes the Chinese merchandise is counterfeit, it could also be sold cheaper in China to reach a greater market there. – IllusiveBrian Jul 29 '19 at 1:13
  • @IllusiveBrian even if the goods are licensed for sale in China they're not licensed for sale elsewhere, and a business selling them elsewhere is infringing the trademark. – phoog Jul 29 '19 at 1:21
  • @phoog Assuming that's true, the infringement is on the Chinese company, unless OP has some way to know the licensing agreement between the Chinese company and the band. – IllusiveBrian Jul 29 '19 at 1:28
  • @IllusiveBrian if a Chinese company sells China-licensed products to someone in another jurisdiction, they're violating the terms of their license agreement. If the buyer sells those products to someone else, they're infringing the trademark. – phoog Jul 29 '19 at 1:44

The reason those shops are based in China is because it's much more difficult to bring a trademark infringement lawsuit in China. Sell that same merch from your own site based in the US, and the rock band's lawyers will come after you.

They don't care where it's made; they care that you are selling it. If you used Zazzle or Cafe Press to produce the same item, you'd be at very least shut down by those US-based online marketplaces, as they don't want to be sued for infringement. You may not even get to the point of selling the merch; those services have many safeguards to prevent infringing merch from even being displayed for sale, and you will have to agree to a contract to not infringe on trademarks or copyrights when you first open an account. And if the merch ever saw the light of day on those services, you could be sued, too, by the rock band's lawyers.

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