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Dear Customer, thank you for choosing Just Answer. You have raised an interesting point, and yes they can sue you. The tort is one called "Right of Publicity" and it deals not with your ownership of the photograph, but rather with the celebrity's right to make money off of their own publicity and efforts. The tort is still being litigated in the early phases, but it is effective and a scenario such as the one you describe would likely result in liability.
Like I mentioned, this tort is still being developed, there are a few celebrities that are very aggressive about pursuing it, and many that are not. But courts are allowing more and more people to take over their right of publicity (despite it being eroded by the internet, but that is more commentary than legal information).
That is your best protection, but the rule is not quite that broad - if you are using the image to promote the product (which is usually the case, or can be proven to be the case), you will need permission or consent.
Here is a link to a website that describes the statute in a little more detail than I can describe here: http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/california-right-publicity-law
If you are not using it for commercial purposes (meaning the local t-ball team, a non-profit, a service group, a birthday party, etc.) you are not using the image for financial gain.
Right, but the issue is the sale of the shirts. I would check the link I provided, it gives a couple of examples of what counts as using the person's image or voice for commercial gain. What you are describing is simply making and selling shirts that have a logo on them to a person for a birthday party. Your first example (the Brad Pitt on the red carpet would be using Mr. Pitt's image to help you actually sell shirts that you have made), is different and would violate the right to publicity.
That is correct. The law here is a little more nuanced than that, and if you plan on operating a t-shirt company where you are selling shirts to a larger market (i.e. distributors etc.) I would advise touching base with a civil litigation or business law attorney to check with your business plan to help you with these issues.
I understand, and the answer is still yes. Brad Pitt could sue you.
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