I’ve been designing a series of typography prints over the course of a couple months now.
As i’m nearing the end of finishing touches & getting them test printed, i’ve also been doing some research to double check that everything is A-OK to sell. This means making sure that the fonts are able to be used in a commercial design as per their licensing agreement. This means that if a quote is used, it’s properly quoted as so people know where it came from. I have an in-progress design that I wasn’t planning on selling because the art is centered around a song lyric by a band that is active.
I don’t wanna self promote my upcoming shop right now, but more so I want to talk about trademark infringement and what’s okay to sell in the world of graphic design. While hunting for a little inspiration on Etsy on how shops are set up to sell prints, I came across some things that bothered me.
Personally, I get annoyed seeing so many graphic art prints that are simply just typefaces put together. It’s one thing if the fonts are edited & manipulated in some way, and accompanying other artwork, but it seems wrong for me to see prints being sold with little designing done (largely just featuring a font that someone else designed, in some cases).
I also noticed, and became aware that there are tons of possible copyright/trademark infringements on Etsy. There seems to be a blurry line. For example, there are many simple prints featuring the phrase “may the odds ever be in your favor” from the Hunger Games. I was under the impression that this was NOT okay to do, legally or respectfully. If I wanted to, I could quickly whip up a similar print and pop it up on Etsy for a profit.
This is not an attack on graphic design by any means. I’m very aware that simple/minimal design is not easy to do, and takes just as much time and work as a more complicated design. When I say ‘simple’ I mean that from working in the industry I can recognize when something was created without much effort.
How do you know if/what ‘fan’ art is okay to sell? Like the above example, if everyone is doing it it seems OK. Is the writer of the Hunger Games book going to take the time to sue someone over a $20 print? Probably not. Did the seller of the artwork get permission to use the phrase? Probably not. As far as I can tell from looking into it, the internet tells me that particular phrase is trademarked. It seems like you can create a lot of fan art and get away with it.
For me, I see this as a huge issue of respect. You might be able to create art centered around someone else’s idea and not have it reported, but is that really courteous?
All of this frustration makes me want to throw in the towel and not sell prints of my own. Maybe i’m just tired of seeing ‘Home is wherever i’m with you’ quote prints (as lovely as they are). In all seriousness, it bothers me to be taking a part in something where there’s such an unclear area of what’s right and not right. It seems like no one wants to talk about it.
‘Get Real’ is a new monthly-ish series on Completely Unfinished featuring honest ‘real talk’ & more personal posts.