Trademarks, copyrights and restricted materials

January 15, 2009

When designing something for non-personal use, there are a few things you should keep in mind. You don’t want to get slapped with a lawsuit because you decided to use a pretty picture you found online on your business cards. Of course, this information is not exhaustive and is provided to give you an idea of what to avoid when looking for content to use in your designs. What is a trademark? Names, words, logos and designs used to identify services or products are considered trademarks or service marks. The owner of a trademark or service mark had the exclusive right to use or reproduce it. To find out if a name, words, or logo is trademarked you can look it up at What is a copyright? A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of original works by the laws of the author’s resident country and through International Treaties. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce their copyrighted work. They may, however, grant permission to others who wish to reproduce the copyrighted work. Artists, photographers, publishers, architects, writers and composers can all be copyright owners. Copyright owners may place a copyright notice (example: ©2009 on their works; however, this notice is not required under the law and is still considered copyright-protected without the notice. Here is an example list of copyrightable materials: • Graphics • Sculptures • Photographs • Cartoons • Maps • Blueprints • Architectural renderings • Music and lyrics • Newspapers • Magazines • Trade journals • Books • Newsletters • Computer programs • Plays • Screenplays • DVDs What is restricted material? Materials that are of monetary value, negotiable instruments or can be used for identification purposes are considered restricted materials. There are a multitude of stock photography and illustration companies out there that offer images for use in designs. My personal favorite is, because you can purchase credits to buy individual designs or photos and it won’t break the bank. So, in brief, if you think it is copyrighted, trademarked or restricted don’t use it. Better to be safe than sorry, so when in doubt leave it out.

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

[…] Copyright can be a complicated issue. But as long as you take steps to remember the basics you will be able to protect yourself from the most obvious risks, especially online, where it has become so easy to both have your work stolen and catch instances where it has occurred. […]

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The PsPrint Blog is a resource for graphic designers, freelancers, small business owners and fans of print marketing. You'll find helpful techniques on printing everything there is to print, including business cards, postcards, brochures, stickers, invitations, greeting cards, door hangers, magnets and more. The PsPrint Blog shares creative ways to improve your design and layout skills, and useful tips for marketing your business in any medium. We also like to have a little fun, sharing design inspiration and spotlighting some our favorite customers' printed pieces in our "Hot Off the Press" series.