Fan Art Copyright Issues

Long a fan of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I decided that it would be really cool to show off some cool stuff on a T-Shirt when I go to the movie premier.

Enter Cafepress. I decided to design a shirt and put it up there for my own use.

However, I am slightly concerned about copyright issues. Can anyone tell me if I am within my rights here.

The Facts:

  1. I created all of the images to be used on the shirt with a combination of Illustrator, Photoshop, and a 3d rendering program (nothing spectactular, just a cool pic of the ring itself). Nothing was copied from anywhere, except:

  2. I of course used the elvish text on the picture of the ring

  3. I plan to use that text, and the english text of the full poem on the shirt in other places.

  4. (I doubt this matters, but…) I do not plan to sell these at a profit, just to make a few for me and friends.

Thanks much

I dunno about copyright issues, but I had a CafePress account and their shirts fairly suck. The one I bought, the colour nearly all washed out of it after the first go around.

I sell shirts through a different company now, also because they’d give me black merchandise without charging me a stupidly high fee to set it up. ($50-some-odd dollars for every 25 shirts sold with CafePress…)

Just wanted to let you know in case you haven’t purchased anything from them before. I’ll only sell their mugs and non-clothing stuff now.

Using the text in this context would probably be a clear copyright violation. The fact you aren’t making a profit it completely irrelevant.

Whether the Tolkien estate would take you to court over the matter is another matter. For a half dozen shirts, it isn’t going to be worth their effort.

The text of the poem, or the tengwar script that appears on the ring?

or… both?

Is there any way to use it without violating a copyright?

Get permission.

-Dave the Copyright Lawyer.