Direct To Garment Printers: How to Find Legal Images Online
Direct to garment printers allows you to print high-resolution images on a variety of products: T-shirts, hoodies and other clothing. Print designs, photos and more!
Using images off the internet, you can avoid legal problems with copyright holders; by making sure images you use are legitimately available.
Technology changes everything, and nowhere is this truer than with direct to garment printers. With a DTG Viper, DTG M2 or the new DTG M4 Garment Printers and desktop publishing software, anyone can be a graphic designer and print outstanding images on T-shirts, garments and other promotional products.
Accessing images online bring up an extremely serious issue: Usage Rights and Copyright Law.
There is nothing new about fair use and copyright as professional graphic designers and photographers know well. Today, the world is different, with the rise of consumer-level desktop publishing software and powerful and easy-to-use direct to garment printers.
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Technology has changed everything with a flood of budding graphic designers, many of which are unaware of rules that govern the use of commercial images available online.
The truth about images found through search engines.
Images discovered through Google and other search engines are not all free to use. Think of it this way, Google is what it claims to be—a search engine. That is it! If something is online, Google will help you find it.
Unless the artist is smart enough to carry all of their copyrighted photos offline or available to only a select few, Google will be able to help you get virtually any image. All it takes to download a copy to use for your own purposes is a painless “right click” and save to the computer.
Two things to remember when using online photos and images:
- Every image online is owned by someone.
- For photographs, images or any other digital art, the person who created it owns it and is usually who must give you permission to use the photo for direct to garment printer apparel.
However, like almost anything online, there are some notable exceptions. For one, there are businesses or companies that will hire a photographer or graphic designer. In paying an artist, the company will often buy the rights to use an image or photo exclusively.
There are also companies that manage stock photography. Photographers will often sell their work to stock photography websites, who in turn make the images available for public use. Although some images will be available free, it is more common that they will charge for a subscription or for individual download without a watermark.
This is probably the best way to get images to use in a direct to garment printer if you do not want to develop your own graphics. Even altering an original image, in case your T-shirts become a viral hit, you will have to contend with publishing rights from the copyright holder.
Consider the case of Shepard Fairey and his iconic “Hope” poster of Barack Obama in 2008. Fairey had to defend himself against claims that the poster was “perpetuated illegally” using a photo owned by the Associated Press. In an ironic twist, Fairey had to make other artists stop using his images with same techniques he was using.
Ignorance of the law is no defense
As with any law, ignorance of copyright and fair use does not make using these images legal. Avoid suffering the suffering the consequences for you and your clients. Customers pay you for creative, original direct to garment printer designs; using images illegally downloaded from the internet will damage both your reputation and (even worse) your sales!
The right way to get images for your direct to garment printer, and stay out of trouble.
The best way to get images for your direct to garment printer products is to make them yourself. If you are an embroiderer or screen printer looking to grow your business with a direct to garment printer, you probably already know how to use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or CorelDraw. If you still need motivation, or require images to use as a starting point, there are many places to buy online stock photography legally.
If (for some reason) you still think Google is an alternative to acquire images suitable for direct to garment printer designs, there are ways to do it right.
The four steps for finding Google images that are suitable for commercial use:
- Search Google for the theme you want (i.e. “Tigers”)
- Click “Images” on the top of the search results. Click on the gear icon at the upper right, and then select Advanced Searches.
- There is a “Usage Rights” dropdown at the bottom of the Advanced Searches page. Since there are several settings, you can decide if you only need to see available images with no restrictions, choose “free to use.” For direct to garment printer images, you will probably want images available for commercial use. Choose images tagged for “commercial reuse.”
- After clicking on the Advanced Search button, you will see some images. They are images available for use with permission of the owner. To use them, you should credit the copyright holder, whose name will be available when you select the images. You can then contact them for permission or purchase.
There are some resources for information on Graphic Design ethics, Copyright Law and Fair Use. One of the best can be found by visiting Aiga.org. It has a lot of information to help you or your direct to garment printer customer.
For information on how to get the most of your direct to garment printer, as well as Genuine DTG Inks and supplies, visit ColmanAndCompany.com or call 800-891-1094 today!
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