My friends and I want to start selling merchandise of pictures of two celebrities. The pictures are of two celebrities. We want to make sure that we won't have a lawsuit on our hands if we start selling. The pictures we want to use are available and posted publicly by them. The pictures are not copyrighted. Is this legal?
The pictures are almost certainly copyrighted: it is immaterial that the pictures were made available by the subjects. So you could easily have a copyright suit by the photographer, or subjects in the case of a work for hire, if you copy those pictures. Their likenesses are additional protected by various laws regarding "personality rights". The specific details vary according to jurisdiction, but you might easily get sued in California (full of celebrities), which has strong laws against the exploitation of images without permission. However, you may be able to negotiate a license with the subjects: after all, getting paid for allowing people to use their image is how many celebrities make their money.