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Pay Attention to Copyright Laws When Designing Company Signage

Posted on October 22, 2013 | Posted by Murray Johns

If you're not the visually creative type, designing company signage can be a pain. To save time, you might be tempted to borrow graphics and snippets of text you find on the Internet. Before you use that material, though, make sure you're not violating copyright law or you could be looking at a lawsuit. 

copyright law, copyright symbol

Don't get burned by copyright infringements.

Get Clear on Fair Use

It's a common assumption that fair use laws let anyone use small amounts of copyrighted material for any reason without requesting permission. In reality, these laws generally apply only to academic research and teaching, news reporting, fair criticism and parody. If you're using the material for anything else, whether for advertising signs or a vehicle wrap, chances are you'll need explicit written permission first.

Six Steps to Avoiding Copyright Headaches
  • Assume any content you didn't create yourself is copyrighted.
  • Assume you don't have automatic permission to use the content for any reason, including for nonprofit purposes.
  • Seek written permission before you finalize your signage designs. Requesting permission once your signs are up won't cut it.
  • Be prepared to negotiate license fees and royalties, and pay them before your signs go up.
  • Look for alternatives in case you don't get permission to use the images or text you want.
  • Plan to provide proper credit, such as a line stating "Graphics by Joe Smith."
piracy, copyright, it's a crime

Remember, "You wouldn't steal a handbag" so don't steal intellectual property that isn't yours!

Copyright is a complex topic and even professional graphic designers can't keep up with every aspect of the law. To steer clear of legal problems while designing company signage, consult with an attorney who specializes in copyright and intellectual property issues.

If you need business signs with a professional flair and no sticky copyright issues, get in touch with the pros at 12-Point SignWorks. We can create a one-of-a-kind design that appeals to exactly the type of customers you want to reach.


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