Logo Disclaimer Discussion

 

Compiled by: Len Silva

 

Revised: August 03, 2005 

 

The following is a compilation of answers to the question posted below:

 

Does anyone have a standard disclaimer for the use of corporate or sports logos requested by a customer?

 

If someone asks me to engrave a Ford logo on a glass and I provide the logo from clips, is there a copyright or liability issue there?

 

I am not talking about production items for sale to the public but small quantities of awards or promotionals.

 

Thanks,

 

Len Silva

This post resulted an interesting discussion, and several points of view:

Response from Lynn Doe

 

That is a sticky situation.  I think that even though itís for a club for trophies, you still have to get authorization from the company i.e Ford, etc.  for using their logo.  If it's a custom club logo, you donít need authorization, but otherwise I think you still do. 

 

Response from William Alford

 

I've been down this road. What you speak of is called a "third party contract" and is worthless. No THIRD PARTY can release you from liability to another separate party with which you have no contract (the copyright owner, if they are not also the customer).

 

I've been named in a lawsuit by a club owner when an image that he contracted for was later used by the creating artist himself! and I printed. I had printed the original image for the club which the artist had brought in to me himself and falsely assumed that another unrelated printing in *another form* by the creating artist was OK. WRONG!

 

The best you can do is seek damages in a separate lawsuit from the customer bringing in the image who may sign such a contract with you-- it will not help you with the copyright owner. BUT, when you hang out your shingle, you are announcing to the world that you are an expert in your field and therefore know all the ramifications of the business, including the copyright laws.

 

You are then held to a higher standard than private citizens. If you know it is wrong and do it, you may not even be able to collect damages from the offending customer, regardless of what he signs. And because you are claiming to be a professional, you are legally assumed to know it, even if you truly do not!

 

ďIf someone asks me to engrave a Ford logo on a glass and I provide the logo from clips, is there a copyright or liability issue there?Ē

 

Absolutely. and not only that but the copyright owner has to pursue all infringers when they come to their attention else they open the floodgates to such use by showing selective prosecution-- once this is done, if they intentionally let anyone off the hook, they could lose the entire protection of their copyright. It is a severe mandate for them.

 

Witness the lawsuit several years ago by the Budweiser company against the small flower shop which used a billboard that stated "this bud's for you".

Budweiser DID bring suit and fortunately the judge ruled that they were not damaged since no one would enter the flower shop to buy a beer. Nevertheless, the shop had great legal costs.

 

While this always comes off looking like the "Big bad multinational company" against the little guy, and not the kind of publicity that Budweiser wanted, this was necessary for Budweiser to protect the slogan, and still preserved their ownership. They have to do it whether they want to or not, and a judgment against them in this one case still preserved their ownership and left them free to prosecute others as they arise on a case by case defense.

 

If you want to keep up with these kinds of issues, subscribe to the many printing professional "trade journals", many free to the trade and follow these issues as they arise. It is a subject of great interest in the professional arena.

 

There was also a lawsuit regarding the often-seen cartoon on the back of many Chevy pickup trucks with the Calvin & Hobbs boy urinating on the word Ford. The owner of the Calvin strip has refused to ever sign ANY contract for reproduction of his characters in any form. If you see it outside his strip, it is illegal. That didn't stop people openly selling it nationally, but they got caught. Not to mention the Ford image.

 

There was a local lawsuit because of a TV commercial for a local automobile dealer in which the dealer had a can of Coke inadvertently setting on his desk during the commercial. It was a completely unintentional oversight, but it implied some kind of endorsement by Coke and was using their logo without permission--they pulled the commercial.

 

When you enter the copyright jungle, there is always great peril. The only safe way is to practice abstinence, or go blindly along and hope for the best, but you never know where they will show up. I once printed only 24 t-shirts for a local concern and one ended up on some unknown guy standing near Hugh Heffner in a photo in Playboy

Magazine. Who'da thunk it?

 

Response from Fred (imageiteverywhere)

 

IMHO, if a customer comes to you and asks for logo A o be placed on object B then there is no problem so long as you don't ask or censor any request to combine A+B.

 

Does CVS need to call coca cola simply because some film you took in to be processed that you happen to be holding a coke? Of course not. CVS is just printing photographs.

 

It is the responsibility of the person making the request to sell the

product in a lawful manner. That is his problem not your.

 

Now on the other hand if you choose to pirate pictures for profit you basically risk having your inventory smashed and ordered not to sell anymore and possibly fined for lost royalties to the owner of the symbol. So don't try to open a Simpsonís store or 100% of your inventory will be smashed. If you spread the risk around, youíre safe as long as the copyright owners are different. Of course if youíre opening a Simpsonís store then you really should be paying royalties.

 

Finally the Supreme Court in all of its wisdom allows for parody. Basically your 100% safe and royalty free so long as your making fun of it. So while Tiger Woods would not be legal to use, tiger woods holding a chicken leg would be legal. Its sad that I can't make a tribute to Tiger but I can make a racist joke.

 

Response from Bill Meyer (ginsgem)

 

On an average you will probably have no problem at all with using the logo on 1 or 2 pieces for a customer. It is safer asking the customer to sign a paper that they will not use it for anything pertaining to the group or company without paying royalties to them.

 

I am also in the jewelry business and there have been major changes in what companies will go after someone for recreating their logo without permission. DO NOT DUPLICATE THE NIKE logo on anything because they are definitely going after anyone regardless of size for using their logo without permission. It is also safer to somewhat modify the logo so that it is not exact and if anything ever came up you could always refer to that change.

 

This might seem a little much for using one logo but it is the safe way. I do work for the teamsters and before I use their logo I got permission from their international group in writing and found people were using their logo in many different forms. Always use the copyright, trademark symbols or any other significant trade-regulating symbol on your art if you use the logo exactly. Most will not have the time or inclination to do all of the legal work involved to sue a person for small quantities.

 

I do a lot of corporate work for people that sell to large corporations and I have them all give me releases. I would also venture that 50% of the copyrighted symbols that you see are not copyrighted

 

 

Response from Fred (imageiteverywhere)

 

I totally disagree with you on having them sign a paper. Probably the landmark decision on this point was the Supreme Court decision against CompuServe from which much of the Internet legality is based.

 

Basically CompuServe set them selves up as a censorship board for the nude pictures that were on display on their site. They did a really good job of filtering out the nasty stuff and showed only women of legal age showing what it was legal to show. Except ONE!

 

There was one picture of a 17-year-old girl that they missed. Nothing nasty, just a nude minor. It was determined that by placing themselves up as a censorship board they were responsible for 100% of what was left.

The result of this was newsgroups where nobody is in control. You can take a picture of any nasty thing and post it and it will spread like wildfire to all the Usenet servers in a matter of days and remain on those servers for 30+ days. As a result of this Earthlink and every other ISP at any given time has a huge child porn collection but they are not busted because itís just 0's and 1's to Earthlink.  So when it comes to signing papers you become responsible for all the artwork you create. Youíre far better off if a customer wants a logo on something to give it to them with no questions asked. It is up to the customer to determine legalities. Youíre not making money putting a Nike logo on anything; your business is to put a picture on an object. Since youíre not charging any premium for it to be a Nike logo your not profiting from Nike.

 

The second you set yourself of as the police, you become the police. If you really feel like you need written protection the form needs to make it clear to the customer that it is their responsibility to obtain legal rights to use images and that by signing this form they hold you not responsible. 

Its so crazy that even the government had to fall back on the "don't ask, don't tell".

 

As for 50% being not copyrighted, that is dead wrong. Anything that is printed according to Supreme Court decisions has an implied copyright that holds the same legal status as if you went out and actively copyrighted it. Itís so crazy that even a tree sitting in the ground or a building has a copyright against you taking pictures of it or from copying style elements from it! An example of this is the tree at pebble beach.

One other detail is that trademarks are a completely different thing from a copyright. While in most cases we talk copyright what we mean are trademarks. This is the case with Nike and why their lawsuits have much more teeth. There are no implied trademarks, you must go to the patent office web site or a lawyer and specifically apply for one. Being so specific just about any change to the trademark makes it not the trademark.

 

If laws made sense we wouldn't need so many lawyers.

 

Response from Bill Meyer (ginsgem)

 

You can disagree all you want but if you talk to your lawyer about what you just said you will find that ignorance of the law is NO EXCUSE. This is what you do by just going ahead and duplicating what anyone wants without any backup.

 

 It really comes down to how much of this work you do. Since we do on an average of 3-7000 pieces of glass, crystal, jewelry and many other items we have to make sure that what we do is legal as far as can be determined by us. It is not necessary for us to research the claim from an individual that what he is giving us is legal to put on whatever they want. Our lawyers say this is the safest method for us.

 

 We belong to the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and they publish the rules for trademark and copyrights for the Federal Trade Commission. We are obligated to follow these rules to remain in good standing with this group. This group is jewelry related but reflects all of the standards to any organizations in any field.

 

After 25 years of doing this type of thing in this business and 35 years in the computer manufacturing business I have developed a long and lasting relationship with a lot of the people involved and although it is probably the least thing someone in this business has to worry about, safe is better.

 

IN MY OPINION I do not know how many people in the group are required to collect sales tax but there is a place that more people have things to worry about than copyright infringement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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