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.

6 Steps to Find (and Keep) Your Dream Employees

Employees who love their jobs perform better and stay with their companies longer. However, according to Gallup, only 15% of employees worldwide are truly engaged in their current roles. Put another way, this year, 52% of U.S. workers plan to hunt for a new job, and of those, 54% landed their current job less than a year ago, Adtaxi reports.

That speaks to a larger trend of smart business owners creating cultures that appeal to workers’ needs, like a work-life balance or flex time. But first, you need to find, train and retain the right employees.

“The most difficult aspect of hiring and training employees is finding the right match for the employee and your company,” says Linda Gadwood, owner of Omaha, NE-based LogoLinda LLC.. “From the company side, [that means finding] someone who’ll show up and be fully engaged with my business. From the employee side, [they’re looking for] a company that allows them to use their talents.”

We asked four industry business owners and experts to weigh in on six key areas for finding and retaining the best employees.

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10 Ways to Increases Sales AND Create Good Business Karma

Distributor Rick Tidd has helped raise $750,000 for charity and local organizations during his 35-year career—and wants to hit a cool million before he retires.

“My primary goal is to help people, so that’s why I get involved in charitable efforts,” says Tidd, owner of Findlay, OH-based Mad Hatter Promotions. “But it also tends to help my business, since people invariably end up asking what I do and then want to work with me.”

Michelle Long, CEO of Glen Burnie, MD-based Hullabaloo Promos, agrees. “As a community, we need to work together,” she says. “If you have the capability to assist a neighboring company or school, it just seems like the right thing to do.”
But how do you get started when you’re busy running a business? “Evaluating your options is simple— don’t take on anything that will cause your business to lose money,” says Long, who advises that processing orders at a discount, at cost or as a donation for advertising is best. “It’s a balance, though. Remember to leave time for your regular clients.”

There are lots of charitable organizations, many with branches in your area, that would love your help. When you support a nonprofit that aligns with your firm’s values, you’ll also attract like-minded customers. One idea: Tidd recommends choosing a charity that you want to affiliate with—and offering up a few hundred tote bags free or at End Quantity Pricing, if they’re hosting an event. “You get to add your logo as a sponsor,” he says. “You can even ask one of your clients to sponsor the bags or other items for the charity, and put both of your logos on it. It makes everyone happy.”

Tidd has repeated this charitable model in one form or another over and over, helping to raise three-quarters of a million dollars for his local community. For a Kentucky Derby-themed gala to raise money for his local senior center, Tidd produces a printed whiskey glass or stemless wine glass each year. “We’ve gotten our customers to sponsor the glasses,” Tidd says. “And we all get our logos on the drinkware.” For his local Honor Flight Network veterans program, Tidd sources “challenge” coins, “good conduct” medal pins and celluloid pins at cost. “We’ve saved the group more than $2,000 vs. a retail cost,” he says. 

Read on to learn more about how generous distributors have gotten involved in their local communities—and been paid back in dividends. Plus, get some great ideas on how you can get involved.

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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 “Preuxfessional” Has Arrived.

As the years have gone by, when it comes to fashion in the workplace, each generation of workers has become more and more relaxed. No longer is the suit and tie, or traditional dresses the norm for people to wear at the office. Dress codes have become much more casual, to the point where even athleisure fashion has found its way into the workplace.

Along with this relaxation in dress codes, comes a need for a more versatile wardrobe. Today’s young generation of workers prefer a modern fit, a little more color, and something they can feel comfortable using at the office, on the green, and during a night out on the town. However, because many companies are filled with employees from old generations and new, it can be challenging to find a suitable uniform that everyone can feel good about wearing.

Enter Prim + Preux. A new brand ready to tackle this exact problem, with a line of apparel made to satisfy the tastes of young workers and help the older generation look a little more modern in something they can feel comfortable wearing. Here’s a quick look at what the collection has to offer.

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Overcome These 4 Fears About Selling Apparel Right Now

When Howard Potter, CEO of Utica, NY-based A&P Master Images, first started his decorated-apparel business, he operated from a 15-foot-by-15-foot room in his house. “In the beginning, I sold apparel mostly from catalogs and ordered samples to show customers only when I needed them,” he says.

As his business grew, he increased his showroom space—from 8 feet on a wall, to an 8-by-10 area, and then to a large 20-by-20 showroom. “We created a better layout and experience for our customers to view products,” Potter says. “But when we didn’t have tons of space to show actual garments, we didn’t let that become a block to stop us from selling.”

Potter focused on a couple of things: showing clients the most popular and effective mid-level and up styles in a variety of colors, plus recommending apparel and decoration unique to each client’s needs. “We want them to know that we aren’t trying to make them look like everyone else,” Potter says.

Many distributors and decorators, who’d like to sell more apparel, need to overcome their fears about selling it (even more so than overcoming their customers’ objections).  Luckily, we’re here to help you get past the four most common challenges we’ve heard about.

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Goodbye Casual, Hello Fashion: Athleisure is Here to Stay


The days of the “Mad Men” era, with separate attire for work, dinner, and a night out, are long gone. We’re living in modern times where “casual Fridays” are becoming a daily occurrence. Close to 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is freelancing and style has officially been paired with comfort.

As the workforce continues to change and high-fashion consistently transforms activewear into fashionable, yet functional pieces—the need for the suit-and-tie is decreasing. Instead, people are opting for more versatile clothing, such as athleisure options, that allow them to be ready for whatever. In fact, the style that was once thought to be a trend has become a multi-billion dollar market.

Athleisure is expected to reach $83 billion by 2020 in the U.S. and the Global Activewear Market is projected to reach $567 billion by 2024. Marshal Cohen explains the phenomenon best, “When you have comfort and function combined with fashion it’s difficult to go back to anything else on a regular basis.” Simply put, athleisure is here to stay.

ss activewear NPD blog quote

A Style Evolution

From Casual to Fashion Statement

Over the last couple of years, athleisure has shifted from “casual wear” to “fashion statement”. Even A-list celebs (like Kim Kardashian West) and prominent fashion influencers can be seen flaunting the style at various occasions. Its growing popularity can be attributed to an increasing amount of people embracing healthy lifestyles (or wanting to be seen as healthy), and the versatility of the style that can easily take you from day-to-night.

The growing popularity of #athleisure #fashion can be attributed to an increasing amount of people embracing healthy lifestyles, and its style versatility, which can easily take you from day-to-night. Click To Tweet

The New Athleisure Trends

The new trends of color-blocking, earth-tones, and a focus on the surfer/skater lifestyle give the fashion an every-day appeal. This, combined with technological improvementsto synthetic fibers, used to make activewear (making it more flexible and durable), has created endless wardrobe opportunities.

While the initial athleisure style exuded a more casual approach, recently we’ve seen athleisure paired with fashionable pieces—taking a formal but comfy approach. The popular pairing has aided in more acceptance of athleisure in the workplace.

Growing Acceptance in the Workplace

In the early ‘90s, corporations started including “casual Fridays” in the dress code policy as a way to boost office morale in a cooling economy. However, it always begged the question that if you could be casual on Friday, why not other days too? After all, suits and heels were never really comfortable.

As athleisure first began to grow in popularity, there was (and still is) initial skepticism about what’s “professional” to wear to work. However, by wearing athleisure in a “fashionable” way (i.e. leggings with a nice top and blazer), it satisfied the employee’s need to remain comfortable and the company’s wish to have professional balance. The growing acceptance for most businesses is really all about how the outfit is styled.

It’s also important to note that the workforce itself is shifting with more people freelancing and working from home, at least half of the time, thus creating a much greater need for multi-functional apparel in the office.

One company making waves with their stylish athleisure fashion is Badger Sportswear. We’ve listed three of our favorite pieces from the brand that can easily be transformed from work to gym to play:

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This Badger Ultimate Softlock™ quarter-zip is a must-have at your business. The sleek color-blocking provides a stylish element that can be dressed up with slacks for work or a night on the town. It can also be worn with a pair of athletic shorts for a gym session and checks all the comfort boxes by using The Softest Fabric In The World.™

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These fleece joggers, in the earth-toned color ‘graphite’, are extremely comfortable and trendy. They can be paired with a t-shirt or hoodie for running errands or grabbing a drink at the bar.

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These women’s performance fleece pants can be dressed up with heels for a high-fashion brunch look, dressed down with your favorite sneakers for exploring the town, or with slippers for a lazy day at home.

Badger Sportswear creates stylish activewear that goes through rigorous testing to ensure garments of the highest-quality that keep your customers ready for whatever. You can view the full Badger Sportswear line for your fulfillment needs on the S&S Activewear website.

Everything You Need to Know to​ Launch Your E-Commerce Site

As the digital age continues to transform the way consumers interact with brands, more brick-and-mortar print shops are adapting to include an online retail presence. It’s a smart play considering the apparel and accessories e-commerce sector is expected to generate over $138.7 billion in revenue by 2022. 

The time to take your business online was yesterday. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to launch your e-commerce site.

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Adidas: The Rise and Evolution of an Icon

Three stripes, a simple signature, has grown to become as ubiquitous in global fashion as the crossed C’s of Chanel or the Nike swoosh. Without even mentioning the brand’s name, you probably already know who we’re talking about—that’s the power of Adidas. What started as a small dream in a laundry room has manifested into a cultural empire. But how did they become such an iconic brand?  Continue reading “Adidas: The Rise and Evolution of an Icon”