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I’m interested in selling some of my art on CafePress, but I don’t want to allow others to use my art for profit.

Sure, CafePress takes a cut of sales. But I decide when my art goes up. And (as I understand things) I can choose to take it down—after which nobody else can access it.

Does anybody know the nitty-gritty about control over one’s own art for this sort of thing?

Does anybody with experience in this sort of thing have any other advice, tips, or pointers?

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If your art is original and you're the author, you have automatically copyright and the right to license the art. I don't know about CafePress, but some websites (like Facebook) have in their Terms and Conditions something like the following:

You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with <service>

Which essentially means you waive all applicable rights to the content.

Check the CafePress T&C for this!

If you still have your rights, find a good license for your product, or make one your own. You could think of things like author attribution, share rights for (non-)commercial goals, adaptation rights, etc.

Also, make sure you can prove that you are the rightful owner and original author of your product. Someone else can always claim it was him who came up with the idea. Things you could do is take a high resolution photo of the product with a newspaper, but it's always safer to deposit your product at a registering service. Note that you'd have to pay for this. A registering service I know of is the [BOIP][2], but that one is only for the Benelux.

At last, make sure the people at CafePress can see how you have licensed your product. Also make sure they can contact you for further information. The latter isn't needed, but is good practice.

After these steps, nobody may do anything that you don't want them to do (because of the license). Also, everyone knows what they may or may not do, because of the license information at CafePress. Lastly, when someone does do something they're not allowed to and claims they're the rightful owner, you have evidence that they are not.

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  • Thank you for the excellent, comprehensive, well-written advice! I posted this question after I had tried to find the relevant legal texts in CafePress some time ago, and I failed to find a clear answer. However, after reading your response, I checked again, and found this: cafepress.com/cp/info/help/index.aspx?page=tos.aspx#43 – Zearin Jun 9 '13 at 16:58
  • These words have me scratching my head (b/c of the “retain ownership” and “hereby grant…” clauses): “You will retain ownership of the Content that you upload to the Website. You hereby grant to CafePress a royalty-free, worldwide, transferable, nonexclusive, right and license to use such Content, in all media existing now or created in the future, as CafePress deems necessary to enable you to use the Create & Buy Service to create, produce and purchase Products.” Part of thinks those are necessary in order for them to sell my art on paraphernalia; part of me worries it could be abused. – Zearin Jun 9 '13 at 17:01
  • Could you help me sort out the reasonable from the unreasonable in this, @Camil? – Zearin Jun 9 '13 at 17:03
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    @Zearin what they say there is that you give them the right to use your content in order for them to give you the services you need (i.e. the Create & Buy Service). If you must be sure, I think the best thing is to contact a lawyer. – user19 Jun 9 '13 at 17:11
  • Sorry I can't be of more assistance :( – user19 Jun 9 '13 at 19:47

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