You probably don’t realise it, but using a graphic you have found on the Internet without asking permission, buying it or paying a licence fee, is illegal and you could get sued for damages. It’s simply against the law to use any search images without the owner’s permission.
“It only cost me £27”
Let me tell you about a case I came across recently.
Earlier this year, a lady I had met through networking came along to my studio for a coffee. She has recently started a new business. She got her business card out and very excitedly said: “What do you think to my new Logo? I got it from an online design service and it only cost me £27!”
I was gobsmacked, on more than one level.
Playing logo detective
Of course, I know how long it takes to design a logo properly. So I started asking myself how the hell they could do it for that little. So I started to dig around.
This is the logo:
So, the first thing I did, was Google ‘footprint question mark’. This was the result:
THERE IT IS!!! I didn’t even have to search hard, did I? Number one in the list. Bingo! On closer inspection, this is what I could see:
It’s a Shutterstock image. Businesses and designers across the world use Shutterstock, who are one of the biggest stock libraries. So the next thing I did was re-aqualint myself with their terms and conditions:
In their Visual Content Licences section of their Terms of Service, in section c, Restrictions of Use, it clearly states:
“You may not
- Use any Visual Content (in whole or in part) as a trademark, service mark, logo, or other indication of origin, or as part thereof.”
So, what does this all mean?
Well, it simply means that even if you’ve paid a licence fee, you still can’t use it in a logo.
This is because a logo is supposed to be a unique identifier and it could cause infringement issues if someone else is using the same graphic in a similar way. Stock libraries make their money from selling images and graphics over and over again. And you simply can’t have sole rights to something that’s being used by millions of other people already.
So, I assumed the designers at Fiverr had used this stock graphic without their client’s knowledge. I mean, why would she know? And I realised this is how they do it so cheaply. There is no thought, original artwork or professionalism going into these logos. They are simply cribbing someone else’s graphics, knocking them together and bashing out fast, cheap solutions to unsuspecting faceless customers.
A twist in the tale
I invited the lady over recently for another coffee, in order to break the bad news to her and ask her permission to use her story as a case study here. When I explained my detective skills to her, she told me it was HER who had found the graphic and asked the designer to ‘use something like this’!
Well, this revelation made it even more interesting. Ok, so my acquaintance didn’t realise what she was doing, like many people. But you would expect her designer to advise her, right? Yes, it’s true a professional would never knowingly copy someone else’s graphic, but even if they had paid a licence fee without realising they can’t use a stock graphic in a logo, the reality is it’s not their problem. In law it is YOU, the client who’s responsible for it. Though it seems unfair, the logo represents your company and so it is YOUR responsibility to know the law.
It has become common knowledge that Getty Images, for instance, are sending out demands for huge amounts of money for unlicensed usage. They are taking advantage of people’s ignorance. They search for their images online and check them against their records and if they can’t find a licence, they sue them. It’s true, simply Google ‘Getty demand letter’ and you’ll find loads of examples.
So the moral of this story is BEWARE! Don’t save and use anything from the Internet if you don’t know who owns it. Or you haven’t asked for permission to use it! If you commission a logo, ask where it came from. Ask if the designer created it themselves, and ask about copyright.
It’s always better to buy the copyright if you can
Logos area valuable asset of any business, and you can’t sell it on unless you own it. So if you have aspirations of growing a business to sell for your retirement, make sure you own the copyright. Because, even if you pay a designer to design a logo for you, you still don’t own it. You have simply paid them for their time. The copyright doesn’t belong to you unless an assignment has been issued. I have known design companies charging as much as three times the original design cost for the copyright. And often they don’t tell you that unless you ask.
We are ethical
At Limited Edition Logos, we design and draw up all out logos in our Yorkshire studio. There are just 10 editions of every logo. You won’t find it popping up on a stock site with access to millions of people. This also makes a great brand more affordable, because you get a designer logo for literally a fraction of the cost. You can also buy all 10 editions if they are available, and secure complete exclusivity. But the best bit is, if you do buy all 10 editions then we automatically assign the copyright to you FREE OF CHARGE! It’s a no-brainer.