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Copyrights, Trademarks, and Legal Issues

What's the difference between a copyright and a trademark?

Both copyrights and trademarks are forms of intellectual property, but cover different concepts.

Trademarks cover brand names. They are words or logos that let everyone know who makes a particular product (or offers a particular service.) Once you establish a trademark, you will have some protection against others using similar marks.

Copyrights protect works of expression, such as t-shirt designs(!), novels, songs, plays and other works of art. As the name implies, a copyright prevents others from copying your work. A copyright also prohibits the distribution and public performance of your work without your permission.

Both of these concepts are pertinent for CafePress storeowners. Although they are different in their coverage, know this: you can't use someone else's intellectual property without their permission, whether it's their logo (trademark) or their art (copyright).

If I upload an image to CafePress, who owns the rights to my design?

From the Help pages (
"You own all rights to your images. When you agree to set up a store, you grant us the right to print your images on your behalf, and to display them on the Web site - on your behalf. Should you cancel your membership, our right to display and print your images also ceases."

In addition, will protect your high-resolution artwork by keeping it on a separate computer not connected to the internet, and only displaying low-resolution preview images. There is no way to get your original high-resolution image back from, so it is vitally important to keep your own backup copy of any images you upload. (Matthew from The ARMAC Store)

Can I print and sell a design if I don't own the rights to that image?


You can only use a design if either:

  1. You created the design yourself, and did not "borrow" any elements created by someone else, or
  2. You have explicitly gotten permission to use the design (or borrowed elements) in items sold FOR PROFIT.
Also keep in mind:
  • Many clip art collections are sold that give you the right to use the images, but not for profit without an additional licensing fee.
  • In the US, a work is protected by copyright law regardless of whether it bears a copyright statement.
  • Work that is publicly available is not necessarily in the public domain.
  • Crediting the original creator is not sufficient - if it's not yours, you can't use it without permission. Period.
  • If you can't find or contact the copyright holder, TOO BAD. You still can't use it.
  • When in doubt, ASK or DON'T USE IT!
Computers and the web have made it very easy to plagiarize, enough so that some people don't realize how wrong it is. But it is wrong, it is illegal, and if you do it you are the scum of the earth. Upstanding content creators who find out you did it will treat you accordingly, and will close your store. (Matthew from The ARMAC Store)

How can I protect the rights to my images?

Yes but it's unessicary, you have to go to the US/UK patents office and provide a sample of the product and then pay for the copyright, its lengthy and costly.

What's a watermark? How can I put one on my image? Digimarc's digital watermarking technologies allow users to embed in audio, images, video and printed documents a digital code that is imperceptible during normal use but readable by computers and software. The science of creating these imperceptible codes is known as digital watermarking. Digimarc is a leading owner of intellectual property relating to digital watermarks and a pioneer in the commercial application of this technology. A Digimarc digital watermark is a special message embedded in an image, whether it is a photo, video or other digital content. Digimarc's software embeds these messages by making subtle changes to the data of the original digital content. These changes are so subtle that Digimarc digital watermarks are considered imperceptible. Digimarc ImageBridge digital watermarking is the industry leading digital watermarking solution that allows digital image owners to place imperceptible codes into their digital images and photographs. Subscribe to the Digimarc ImageBrige for an annual fee. Everything you want to know about digital watermarking can be found at

I'd like to sell a design on my products, but I'm not sure who owns the rights to it. What should I do?

When in doubt, don't do it. CafePress forbids selling designs you don't have a right to, and if you think a design might be owned by someone else, you can't sell it without permission.

If you really want to sell it, find the copyright holder first, and get permission.