Public Domain AKA “Why so much Latin?”

One day I was happily putting pictures on products when daughter #2 said “Oh! Can I design something? I’ve dreamed of designing things my whole life.”(She is only 9.) She finished the front of a shirt, then said “How do I add text?” I said “Do you really think it needs text?” She said “Yeah that’s how you make things really pop.”

I had to admit, she was right. Now my daughter is clever and funny but me, not so much. I knew I would have to use other people’s quotes and I knew that could cause trouble.

So I googled ‘Public Domain Law’ and found this definition from “In general, works published after 1977 will not fall into the public domain until 70 years after the death of author, or, for corporate works, anonymous works, or works for hire, 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.”

Well how the heck was I supposed to know how old a quote was? I decided to go old and found a beautiful Latin phrase meaning “Dare to be Wise”

and another nice phrase meaning “By Courage I Repel Adversity”

This prompted my hubby to look at my works and say “Beautiful shirts babe but what’s with all the Latin?” He was right I couldn’t hide behind a dead language forever, I needed to use English.

After a little more research, I found an interesting article from about copyright law and short phrases that states “Copyright laws disfavor protection for short phrases. Such claims are viewed with suspicion by the Copyright Office, whose circulars state that, “… slogans, and other short phrases or expressions cannot be copyrighted.” It also has very good information on how and when short phrases are protected under copyright law.

Feeling less afraid, I designed a shirt using this popular proverb:


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