Sign & Digital Graphics

October '17

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • October 2017 • 63 Then, the Other Shoe Drops… As your eyes scan the design's bold detailing and clever use of space, you silently begin to question their ability to put out a logo design this good. It seems too good to be true, and it is. As they continue, they tell their story about the development of the coffee shop logo and how they searched and searched the internet to find just the right image that they could change-up to create the new logo that you are holding in your hands. If this were a movie, you'd hear the sound of screeching tires and brakes right about now. What? "You created this from an image on the internet," you ask, fully hoping that the answer would be other than what you feared it would be. You listen to them proudly explain how they found a logo online that they like, and just made a bunch of changes to it. "Have no fear; it's all good" she says. They reassure you that using this design would be okay because they changed so many things. It's now very different from the original, and it's theirs to use. You ask them to show you the design they used to create their logo and your heart sinks. Sure, they changed a few things, like the name of the business and a few colors, but you know from experience that these two logos still look like twin sons from different mothers. Time to break the Bad News on Copyright and Trademark You start to explain to them why they can't use an image off of the internet in that way, for reasons explainable by an attorney specializing in copyright law, like Alex Johnson of Hamilton IP Law, PC, in Davenport, Iowa. Hamilton IP Law is a "boutique intellectual property law firm" specializing in patents, trade- marks, copyrights and other related intel- lectual properties. As Johnson explains, a common misconception that people have is that simply making some changes to an existing image will mitigate the issue of copyright infringement. However, that is not how the law looks at the use of images from the internet, and under- standing the legal issue of copyright infringement is quite complex. "Not only is each image protected by copyright law, but the image could also be subject to trademark law, too," Johnson says. If the original is someone's business trademark, there may be visual elements including colors, fonts as well as wording that are part of that company's brand. In that case, he says, the conse- quences of the illegal use of the image could run afoul of trademark law for likelihood of confusion (a topic beyond this article) on top of the potential copy- right infringement like the kind you were wary of when this couple showed you the original image. Substantially Similar "But look, the text is different, the shape is a lot different and the colors are totally different," your couple pleads. They really feel it has been altered enough to be different, but as Johnson explains, it's a contextual analysis that is very difficult to determine. As a general rule, merely changing a couple of aspects to that image is likely not enough; unfor- tunately, and as is often the case, the answer is that "It depends," and it just is not a good idea. If the image, even after making changes, is found to be "substan- tially similar," then it is likely to infringe the original image's copyright. So you explain to them that the ques- tion is difficult to answer, and rarely worth the risk of using an image that was Using an image, or copying an image or idea from the internet is a violation of some- body's copyright.

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