Federal Judge Rules Second-Grader Can Sue for Copyright of T-Shirt Design

The parents had to sign an agreement that the design was a work for hire.

Other clothing designs by Israeli company Delta Galil, which owns the T-shirt design at the center of a copyright lawsuit.
Photo Delta Galil.

A federal judge in New York has ruled that a contract by a clothing company that requires a second-grader to give up the copyright in a T-shirt design that won a school competition may have been “unconscionable.”

The parents of a Manhattan student who was seven years old when she entered a T-shirt design contest is suing for the rights to her design, which her parents signed away when she entered the contest, organized by clothing company LittleMissMatched.

US District Court judge Gregory Woods says that a previous decision to prevent a suit by the student, identified only as “I.C.,” was “unconscionable,” according to Courthouse News. He wrote that the contract may be indefensible based on the “disparity in bargaining power” between the two parties since one is a child.

The child’s mother, Ellen Solovksy, sued Sock Drawer and Delta Galil in 2014, after the Copyright Office rejected a copyright application by I.C. She says she won a $100 gift card and five T-shirts when I.C.’s design won the prize.

The child’s parents signed away the rights to the design, which features a smiley face on the front along with the word “hi” and a frowning face on the back with the word “bye.” It was created for a 2011 sweepstakes called “LittleMissMatched’s Tee Off! Project Tee!” Parents were required to sign an agreement that the designs would be considered work for hire, waiving rights to the design.

But “a minor is not bound by a release executed by his parent,” Woods said on Tuesday.

LittleMissMatched later was sold to Sock Drawer LLC, which in turn was acquired by Delta Galil, a 40-year-old Israeli company that reported $800 million in revenue that year, according to Courthouse News, which adds that the company still sells the T-shirts in question.

Up until October 31, you can enter the Project Sock Design Contest to have your own design for mismatched socks manufactured by the company. The grand prize winner gets $500 in cash and 10 packs of the winning sock design, while second- and third-prize winners get $250 and five packs of their designs.

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