Yet criticism was brewing as well. It turned out the quotation on the shirt originated from a tweet sent out in August 2015 by Brandon Male, 18, a student from North Syracuse, N.Y.
Mr. Male was frustrated that he had not been properly paid or credited for Green Box Shop’s use of his quote.
The first time he saw the shirt earlier this year Mr. Male said he had contacted Green Box Shop and was met with mostly dismissal. “They told me I needed to calm down and said they credited me on Instagram one time,” he said. “I ended up letting it slide after that.”
Ms. Robinson said she did not handle her company’s social media until recently and was not aware of Mr. Male’s requests or that he had written the quote. In fall 2016, “someone direct messaged us and said you should put this quote on a shirt,” she said. “They didn’t send me a screenshot or anything.”
The response also inspired Mr. Male to start speaking up again about his original Twitter post. “I started tweeting about it, and a lot of my followers came to my defense,” he said. “And people who don’t follow me came to my defense, too.”
Christine E. Weller, an associate at Griesing Law who specializes in intellectual property and technology, said: “People will often take images they find online and reproduce them because they think they have the right to. But that’s not the case. It’s generally not permitted without the permission of the copyholder.”
Copyright is an opt-out system, she said, which means your intellectual property is yours unless you specifically allow others to use it (through the Creative Commons license, for example).
But there are fair-use exceptions that allow people to appropriate content for purposes like commentary, criticism or scholarship. If the result could be reasonably considered transformative, the appropriator is within his or her legal rights. Ms….