The Fair Use Defense: What is it and How does it Apply to Businesses?

The proliferation of appropriation art—or art that intentionally copies another person’s work and alters it in some way—has been at the forefront of a series of copyright infringement cases over the last few decades. A common defense used in this age-old strategy is “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. This claim has provoked a longstanding debate among the industry. 

To some, the ability to claim “fair use” opens up the possibility to creatively expand upon existing visual works. However, others fear it opens up their material to exploitation at the hands of well-known artists and companies who make minor “cosmetic upgrades” and then take credit for the work as their own.

Of the 64 percent of professional photographers who had their work stolen in 2016, commercial businesses were responsible for 28 percent of the theft. 

As a business owner and decorator, it’s important to thoroughly understand the difference between “fair use” and copyright infringement to avoid costly lawsuits. But don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. 

*Please note, this article should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with your personal legal advisor before relying upon the information provided. 

The Fair Use Defense 

What is Fair Use?

“Fair use” is outlined in a set of guidelines found in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. copyright act. It allows the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the owner in specific cases. Essentially, the guidelines give people the ability to build upon the work of another so long as it doesn’t deprive the original artist of the right to “control and benefit from their works.” 

For example, Section 107 states that using someone else’s work as a part of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research” is not considered an infringement of copyright.

Note, we said guidelines, and not clearly defined circumstances. The wording of the law is meant to be vague. It avoids stifling the very creative process it’s protecting. 

While the lack of specificity can be daunting, there are a set of principles that courts use to determine if a case adheres to “fair use” guidelines. 

Principles to Consider

If you’re considering using someone else’s artwork or imagery in your next project, be sure to evaluate each of these four principles:

  • The purpose of use: Non-commercial, editorial, parody and educational use are covered under the law. Commercial use is a gray area, though. Tread carefully if you’re mass producing printed tees with popular paintings, images or designs.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work: Is the original work part of public domain? For example, the Mona Lisa is considered public domain use because Leonardo da Vinci died over 70 years ago. 
  • The amount used: The smaller amount of the original work used, the better. 
  • The market effect: As mentioned previously, if your appropriation of a copyrighted image deprives the copyright owner of income through direct competition, you can be hit with a copyright lawsuit. 

When it comes to decorated apparel, “fair use” is not duplicating a work of art as is, screen printing it and then selling it. Making only minor tweaks to the artwork, such as mirroring an image or changing a color, would also not be “fair use.” 

So, how can businesses ethically claim “fair use” when appropriating visual creative?

Businesses and Fair Use

At its core, “fair use” is a defense against claims of copyright infringement to allow for freedom of expression. If you’re comfortable navigating the waters, keep the following top of mind:

  • Use as little of the artwork as possible
  • Transform the design in a significant way
  • Make sure your purpose is clear 

Worried about copyright infringement? In the end, originality is always best practice. To truly become a lifestyle brand people will respect, work to build your own definable brand aesthetic. 

Pro Tip: Carry a sketchbook so you’re prepared when inspiration strikes! Have a cool idea in mind already that merits the work of an artist you admire? Reach out and discuss the possibility of a collaboration. 

To learn more about copyright laws to protect your business, check out our guide on how to avoid copyright infringement.

5 Keys to Transform Your Business into a Lifestyle Brand

In today’s digital era, anyone can have an idea and start a business. Only a few, however, can truly become lifestyle brands with a devoted customer base. Great lifestyle brands have personality, influence behavior and create a strong connection with their audience. 

Here are five keys that will transform your business into one of the greats by building customer retention, brand loyalty and overall profit growth.

1. Understand Your Audience 

Integral to all facets of a business, you need to thoroughly understand your audience. The best way to do this is by creating buyer personas—or semi-fictional characters who represent your optimal consumers based on detailed market research. 

The most important things to include when developing these personas are:

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4 Ideas for Mini-Me Matching Themes

In light of the “mini-me” fashion craze, we’re seeing everything from parent-child tees to dresses to hats pop up in the market. In fact, if you search the hashtag #minime on Instagram, you’ll find over seven million results

High-profile celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé are no strangers to the style, as they are often seen flaunting matching outfits with their kids. So, why are we so obsessed with looking like our children and having them look like us? Let’s dive in. 

The Mini-Me Craze

If we travel back to the 1960s, mothers used to make clothing for themselves and their children using the same fabric. However, back then these matching styles were usually considered outdated. If only they knew how the style would be highly popularized today. 

Conversely, elegant mini-me matching has long been popular in Russia and the Middle-East. Only in the last couple of years have we seen an uptick in trendiness in the U.S., due in large part to celebrities and social media influencers. 

According to Carolyn Mair, author of The Psychology of Fashion, family members want to dress similarly because it creates a sense of belonging and show of good-standing. Mair explains, “It makes a positive statement about the family to observers, as it’s doubtful that a family or couple who were not in a good place emotionally would dress the same.” 

Not to mention, it pulls at the heartstrings. All in all, the trend is well-received globally by parents and kids alike and offers an opportunity for brands to expand their product offerings. 

The luxury market may be leading the charge, but that’s not stopping retailers from throwing their hats in the ring, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

We’ve rounded up four fun ideas for mini-me matching themes below.

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5 Things College Students Love Wearing

When we think of college we think all-nighters, dissertations and spring break shenanigans. College is a time for education, growth, and discovery, in all areas of life—from earning a degree to crafting a signature style. More importantly, the numbers show that the college retail market is vast and thriving. 

Research by Deloitte revealed college students and their parents planned to spend $4.2 billion on clothing and accessories in their back-to-school shopping last year, with an average per student spend of $279. 

So, what are college students actually wearing these days, and how can your brand cater to the market? Instagram, Youtube, and niche sites like CollegeFashionista can give you an inside look from the student’s themselves. 

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5 Innovative Pop-Up Shop Ideas Your Brand Can Emulate

Have you noticed how pop-up shops have literally been “popping” up everywhere? According to research by Storefront, a marketplace for short-term retail spaces, the temporary retail (i.e. pop-up) industry is expected to generate $80 billion per year.

From streetwear brands to influencer collaborations, pop-up events provide an exciting way for online retailers to connect with customers face-to-face. Additionally, they allow you to test out new markets and receive direct feedback to make any necessary changes with inventory moving forward.

That said, if you’re going to do it—do it right. A pop-up shop is the perfect opportunity to find an Instagrammable moment for your audience, which can catapult social and word of mouth awareness. From concept to creation, they require a significant time commitment and a decent amount of upfront costs, however, the return will be well worth it. Businesses have consistently found that pop-up shops are cost-effective in the end, and way less expensive than a traditional brick-and-mortar location.  

Here are five innovative ideas your brand can emulate, once you have a little revenue in the bank:

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Picking the Right Water-Resistant Jacket

Spring and summer showers are not only good for the flowers, but for your rainwear sales as well. Whether commuting or hiking, it’s not enough for customers to simply tout around an umbrella, especially for those who frequent the great outdoors. Now is the time when many people are searching for jackets that are breathable, stylish and resilient.

Customers want protective materials that allow them to enjoy their active outdoor adventures or strolls through the city without getting soaked from head-to-toe. In fact, an important piece of criteria that many people use to evaluate the best suitable lightweight jacket is water-resistance.  

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

In picking the right outerwear jacket for a customer, it’s important to understand the difference between waterproof and water-resistant.

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Dime MTL: How Teenagers Built a Legendary Brand

In today’s retail landscape, online storefronts and strong brand social followings reign supreme. One of the most exciting aspects about the rise of the online retail experience is that success is available to anyone with a real vision, knack for identifying trends, and strong ambition.

Never has there been a better time for mom-and-pop shops and small team brands to make it big. For some true underdog inspiration, look no further than Dime MTL, a Montreal based skate-streetwear giant. The story of how a group of teens came together to create a streetwear staple shows the power of community and niche markets.

The Dime legacy

The origin of Dime began in 2005, when teenagers Antoine Asselin, Phil Lavoie, Bob Lasalle, Hugo Balek, Charles Rivard, Eric Riedl and Alexis Lacroix began posting collections of silly (but impressive) skate videos to the backdrop of nostalgic 90s hip-hop beats. Within a few years, they had gained a small cult following in Canada and decided to make their first batch of 100 t-shirts at a local print shop under the original moniker, “Dimestore Crew.”

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4 Strategies to Gain Customer Reviews for Your Business

When deciding whether or not to buy a product from a brand online, do you take their boasting statements seriously? Or, do you sift through online reviews from fellow peers and ask friends about their experience before making a decision?

Chances are, you chose the latter option, and statistics agree.
Since consumers’ trust in brands is diminishing, they’re turning to family members, friends and peers to help them make purchasing decisions. In fact, a recent study by Bright Local found 86 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses, with that number jumping to 95 percent for those ages 18-34. And, people read an average of 10 online reviews before deciding to trust a local business. So, what does all this mean? Consumers now have more power than ever to decide the fate of your business—and in today’s digitally savvy world, that means consumer reviews can make or break you.
Not only do 86% of consumers read #reviews for local #businesses, they also read an average of 10 online reviews BEFORE deciding to trust them. Click To Tweet

To push past the competition, get in consumers’ good graces and grow your company, we’ve rounded up four strategies to help you gain some solid reviews!

1. Be Where Your Customers Are  

Before customers can leave reviews or form an opinion, they have to be able to find your business. However, we want them to find you without having to go to your actual website. You need to show up on sites, where people can recommend your services, like Yelp, Google and Facebook.

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The Marketing Strategy Your Brand Shouldn’t Ignore

As consumer trust of brands continues to plummet, shoppers look toward recommendations from friends, family and peers—leading more companies to invest in influencer marketing on social media.

More than just a marketing buzzword, the digital age has allowed businesses of all sizes to partner with trusted online leaders (or “influencers”) to drive a brand message to a dedicated audience—opening the door for smaller brands and budgets.

From fashionistas to hypebeasts to techies, there’s an influencer niche for pretty much every market. Yes, even “kidfluencers” exist.

Brands looking to partner with kidfluencers (influencers under the age of 13) must be extremely cautious. Sometimes known as “spawn con”, there are a lot of ethical debates concerning companies who partner with kids and their behind-the-scenes parents for social media marketing.

Currently, there aren’t any definitive laws protecting insta-famous children and their ad earnings like the Coogan Law does for child actors.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to start a kids’ streetwear line and want to work with kidfluencers, we recommend reading this article by Adweek for tips on how to ethically engage partnerships.

If you’re not ready to work with the complexities of child influencers, there are plenty of older influencers out there to help spread your brand’s message! Read on for how to build a brand partnership with influencers.

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5 Characteristics that Successful Business Leaders Share

The success of a business is only as good as the people leading it. Bad leaders produce unproductive work environments and stagnant growth. In contrast, great leaders can develop trust, engage employees and fast-track success.

When it comes to successful business leaders, these are five of the top identifiable characteristics they commonly share:

1. A Clear Vision

Renowned business executive Jack Welch said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

If you don’t have a clear and engaging vision of where you want your company to go and what you want to accomplish, you can’t expect others to follow suit. Employees need a common goal that they can get behind to feel a sense of belonging and usefulness.

If you don’t have a clear and engaging #vision of where you want your company to go and what you want to accomplish, you can’t expect others to follow suit. #goals Click To Tweet

Here’s how you can get started:

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