Can I Sell Licensed Fabric On Etsy?

By Scott Voelker •  Updated: 04/22/23 •  8 min read

Whether or not you can sell licensed fabric is a common question among crafters who plan on selling their creations on e-commerce sites like Etsy.

Many people have purchased a fabric that they think would be perfect for their project, only to later realize that it is licensed and may not be legal to sell. This can become a major issue, especially as there are many horror stories of sellers being sent cease and desist letters for selling licensed fabric without the proper permissions.

In this blog post, we'll be looking at the rules, regulations, and best practices that you need to be aware of when selling fabric with licensed prints and some of the pros of selling licensed fabric. 

What is Licensed Fabric?

First things first. When we say Licensed fabric, we are referring to the fabric where the manufacturer has gone into a legal agreement with the creator of the artwork printed on the goods/products. 

This can include images of characters, logos, designs, etc., and is often seen on clothing and accessories such as purses and hats and fabric used for quilting and other craft projects.

Licensed fabric can be in many forms, including printed cotton fabric, fleece fabric, and upholstery fabric. Often it can be used to create a wide range of products, such as clothing, bags, accessories, and home decor items.

Examples of Licensed Fabric 

Some examples of licensed fabrics include fabrics that feature characters from Disney, Marvel, and DC universes. 

Also, we cannot forget to mention fabrics with team logos and materials with designs from popular TV shows, i.e., Harry Potter. 

So Can I Sell Licensed Fabric on Etsy?

The short answer to that is yes.

You, as a seller, can sell unadulterated licensed fabric on Etsy.

However, you cannot sell goods/ products that have been made from said fabric.

Generally speaking, licensed fabric is marked as “for individual use” or “Not For Commercial Use “.

This would mean that you can sell the fabric as it comes from the factory, but any products made from that fabric can only be gifted, not sold.

Etsy's Policies on Selling Licensed Fabric

Although Etsy hasn't weighed in specifically on licensed fabric, the sale of fabric you own is generally permissible on the platform, if you keep two things in mind.

First, you must list the fabric under the supplies category when you create the listing.

Second, as we mentioned above, you should be selling the licensed fabric in its entirety and shouldn't create listings for handmade products that you made with the fabric.

That's a great way to stir the “copyright violation” pot!

What is The Printed Warning on The Selvages?

If you've ever bought fabric online or at a local fabric store, you've probably seen a statement that reads the fabric is intended for non-commercial use only or a license is required for use past individual consumption. 

This is a warning sign from the fabric manufacturer that's usually printed across the selvage to restrict the use of the fabric.

What is The First Sale Doctrine 

The first sale doctrine is an important concept for Etsy sellers who are selling products made from licensed fabric to know. 

This doctrine states that once the original copyright holder has sold a copy of their work, they no longer have any control over what happens to it. 

This means that it can be resold without the permission or consent of the original copyright holder. 

This is important to understand for Etsy sellers selling products made from licensed fabric, as it means that the original copyright holder has no authority over how the product is used or resold. However, this doesn't mean that sellers can ignore applicable laws or regulations around the sale of such items.

What are the Terms of Use 

Terms of use refer to rules that have been set forth by either the copyright holder or the manufacturer regarding the use of fabric. 

Some terms of use of licensed fabric that we have come across on the internet on the use of licensed fabric include;

Do I Need Permission From The Company Who Made The Fabric To Sell Licensed Fabric?

When it comes to selling unadulterated fabric, you don't need the permission of any company or the copyright owner. However, the rules change once you make alterations and create derivatives. 

What Can I Do with Licensed Fabric?

There are a couple of things that you can do with licensed fabric. You can choose to either sell the fabric as is or create products such as pajamas, underwear, or any other outerwear that you'd like, for personal use or as gifts.

Pros of Selling Licensed Fabric on Etsy 

One of the biggest benefits of selling on Etsy is that it gives you access to a large audience of potential customers who may not have been able to find your products otherwise. Furthermore, Etsy provides sellers with a secure platform for transactions and customer service, as well as tools to help with managing your store. 

Selecting the Correct Products for your Store 

When deciding what products you will sell, it's important that you choose products that will appeal to your target market and will be easy for you to source. 

Consider the trends in the market and research any competitors you may have to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. 

Can I Sell Handmade Items Made from Licensed Fabric?

No. Selling of handmade goods from licensed fabric is not allowed. You must first obtain a separate license for each item you wish to sell and follow the terms of any applicable license agreements. It's also important to ensure you're not infringing upon any patent or copyright laws when selling licensed fabric. 

Where to Buy Licensed Fabric

When looking for licensed fabric to sell on Etsy, there are several reputable vendors and suppliers that you can purchase it from. 

It's important to remember you will need to check with the design owners before selling any licensed fabric if you plan on crafting products. 

One of the best ways to purchase licensed fabric is through a wholesaler or distributor. These companies specialize in supplying fabrics and often have access to a wide range of designs and prints. 

Some of them can also assist with obtaining any necessary permissions from the design rights holders, which can, in turn, save you a lot of time and effort. This isn't a guarantee. 

In addition to wholesalers, fabric stores are another good place to look for licensed fabric. While fabrics sold in these stores also don't come pre-licensed, they may have access to design libraries that you can use as inspiration or reference points when creating your own designs.

Finally, you may also find licensed fabric at craft shows or through private sellers on sites such as eBay. However, it's important to remember that these fabrics may not have the same level of authenticity and protection as those purchased directly from a wholesaler or distributor.

How To Sell Licensed Fabric on Etsy

Once you have the fabric, it's important to be aware of the rules and regulations for selling such material on Etsy.

First, you need to ensure that all of your product listings are accurate and include detailed descriptions and photographs that accurately depict the item being sold. It's also important to note that any images used in your listings must be free from copyright or trademark infringement.

Second, you will need to ensure that any licensed fabrics listed on Etsy are properly authorized and include the correct license details. This includes the licensor's name and the associated artwork or images being sold. 

You need to make sure that in your descriptions, you have clearly outlined that the products you're selling are in no way affiliated with the copyright holders of the fabric. This is if you're making items out of the fabric. 

You should also outline that the products you are selling are not affiliated with the original copyright owner. Also, ensure that in your description, titles, and tags, you are not alluding to the product being a part of the company of the original copyright owners. 

Finally, it is important to make sure that all of your products are labeled correctly in compliance with the laws of your country or region. This includes providing appropriate warnings about any potential hazards related to the materials being sold (e.g., flammability).

Wrapping up 

The question of whether you can sell licensed fabric on Etsy or not is pretty straightforward. While explicitly selling the fabric is legal, selling goods that have been fashioned out of it is not. 

As sellers, you must know what the law states to avoid landing yourself in legal trouble. By following these guidelines, you can successfully sell licensed fabric on Etsy without any legal problems. Doing so will not only help protect the original design rights holders but also ensure that your customers receive a quality product that adheres to all applicable regulations. Good luck!

Scott Voelker

Over the years I’ve helped thousands of people TAKE ACTION to UNLOCK their true potential on building their ultimate freedom business, by developing the skills to make them resilient, confident and FUTURE PROOF. I’ve clocked my 10,000 hours over the years working in the trenches myself and helping others build and grow their brands. I know the power in TAKING ACTION better than anyone and I’ve seen people lives changed as a result of it...including my OWN!