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Let’s begin this conversation by understanding the difference between copyright and trademark.

Copyright is for works of art which includes literature, design, etc. Trademark is for logos, characters, sayings, etc. that are “associated” with a company and/or person. If you are crafting for business, you don’t want to use copyrighted or trademarked images.

Copyright example – an artist draws digital painting. A piece of art is under copyright protection as soon as it is created. The artist owns that piece of art and has the right to determine how who or when it can be used. If you take that art, without that artist’s permission, and they find out, they can send you a cease and desist letter, telling you to stop using it. If they have not registered it, at this point, they would go ahead and register it, so that they can pursue damages in the amount of whatever you have made off of using their artwork. Once a piece of art is registered with the PTO, anyone who is in violation of that copyright can be fined up to $120k per INSTANCE. That means if you reproduce that artwork 10 times…. well….you could owe the artist over a million dollars!!

Trademark example – Disney owns the trademarks for many things, including Star Wars, Disney’s characters, and their logo. This means that any reproduction of Disney’s characters, is a violation of their trademark, especially if you are doing it in any way that can take money out of their pocket. This means, selling shirts/water bottles/etc with Disney characters is a violation. If Disney wants to take it further, they can even take it as far as claiming you are creating counterfeit items to sell.

Trademark infringement is a serious business. The fines can be even higher than in cases of violating copyrights. This is because, in essence, you can be seen as messing with the reputation of trademarked business, not just their piece of art.

In summary, If you did not create it, and you do not have permission granted to you to even use it, by the actual designer/copyright/trademark/etc. don’t use it even for personal use.

Special note about Disney digital art. Disney doesn’t easily grant a license to use their trademarked characters, even for personal use. There are a few exceptions, such as obtaining these files through a Cricut subscription. Anyone selling SVGs with Disney characters who claims to have the right to sell them to you is absolutely lying. Especially if they say that you can use it for commercial use.

What are your choices to ensure you are compliant with copyrights/trademark requirements? You have several options. You can buy from reputable sources, such as Design Bundle. You can ask designers for details about their licenses, what it covers etc. You can invest time into learning how to create your own cutting files.

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