Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and none of this should be construed as legal advice on copyright law. This is an explanation of why as embellishers of promotional materials we sometimes have to turn down orders when we suspect or know there are copyright or trademark issues.
Designing a logo can be hard. It is often tedious, time consuming, and expensive. With all the possibilities out there, it can be overwhelming even knowing where to start, which is often why most of us (myself included) turn to the internet for ideas. More often than not, with a well well worded search you can find a logo that conveys the idea you want on the internet, no designing required.
Is it okay to take images from the internet and use them as your own?
The short answer is, if you know it belongs to and is used by someone else, no. If there is a trademark or copyright on the logo, it cannot be used without consent of the owner. When we create promotional items for our customers, we do so under the assumption that our customers have permission to use the images they provide us. However there are times where we are asked to create something from an image of unknown origin that may or may not be someone’s intellectual property. This can lead to unintended copyright issues, that can get us and our customers in legal trouble. To avoid this, here are some basic considerations to take into account when submitting artwork.
How do I avoid copyright and trademark infringement?
The best way to avoid copyright and trademark infringement is to create your own, original artwork. This is however not always an option, which we understand. We are more than willing to work with you to create something. (Contact us to find out how we can bring your ideas to life!)
But what if you aren’t selling or making money off of the copyrighted image you want us to use? It might seem to make sense that if you are doing something as a promotional item, that you aren’t using it to sell to make a profit, what is the harm in using someone’s images or art to do so?
The problem is that even if you aren’t making money off of it, you are paying us to produce it, so we at MarkIt are profiting off of a logo we might not have permission to use. Even if we are unwittingly using someone’s intellectual property we are still liable.
The bottom line
Trademarks and copyrights are a legal field in and of themselves for a reason: it is often complicated to figure out what is and is not okay to use, how much an image has to be changed to be “okay”, and what may or may not be considered fair use and parody. You need a lawyer to figure it out. That is why when we at MarkIt are unsure if it’s okay, we turn down orders out of caution unless we have explicit consent from the copyright holder.
Better safe than sued.