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How to Use Images of Famous Brands and Trademarks in Articles

Updated on July 16, 2011

Online copywriters know that images can enrich the content and it can also make the content more useful and informative. In many cases it's easy to find images that have been released into the public domain or that are licensed under a free license, such as a Creative Commons license.

However, often we'd like to show an image of a well-known brand or company and such material is usually copyrighted. It can also be a trademark which makes it all the more difficult to find or create an image that you can use freely.

Fortunately, there is a way around it: you can usually find press material that can be used freely and I'll explain that in this article.

Before we continue, I'd like to say that I'm not a lawyer and that this information is provided to the best of my ability but I could be wrong.

The basics of copyright

The basic rule of copyright is that when you make something (such as a photo or an article), it is copyrighted and nobody else can use it without your permission. That is why someone needs to license their photo under a free image license in which they give up some of the rights they own. You can use the photo freely but under certain conditions, such as giving attribution to the person who made the photo.

The same applies to images of logos and other protected material. For example, you can't simply take a screenshot of commercial software yourself and license it under a free license because you don't own the rights of what is depicted.

Many big companies are aware of this problem and they provide press material to journalists and bloggers so they can use it in their work. They provide logos, trademarks, photos of products and screenshots of software so that it can be readily used in articles and stories.

This solves the problem because they have made the material and they also own the rights to it. This mean they can release the images for free under their terms and conditions.

Logo of Firefox
Logo of Firefox

Example #1: Firefox

The Firefox web-browser is well-known for its logo with a firefox and a blue world behind it. You cannot simply take this image and use it in your content, although this happens frequently on the internet but that's a story for a different article.

The organization behind Firefox, Mozilla, has an online press center with a media library in which they provide high-resolution images of the Firefox logo. They also provide guidelines on how this image can be used. For example, you're not allowed to alter it, you're not allowed to suggest that Mozilla endorses what you've written and you're also not allowed to use it in a harmful or deceptive way.

Basically, this should all be common sense and you can simply write about Firefox, such as the latest developments and tips & tricks. In your article you can include one of the logos that Mozilla has provided for the press without any problems.

Palm Pre3
Palm Pre3

Example #2: Palm

The company Palm is part of Hewlett Packard and they also have an online media center. You have to comply with there terms and conditions but they mostly correspond with common sense. After that you get to a page where you can view and download high-resolution photos of their mobile devices, such as the one on the right.

The question now is: can you use these images in reviews of these products? Reviews can be mostly positive but it should be possible to point out flaws in the product. I think you can because journalists and bloggers can also write about the product without ignoring the problems that a product may have.

Can of Coca-Cola.
Can of Coca-Cola.

Example #3: Coca-Cola Company

The Coca-Cola Company also has an online press center with an image gallery. In this case I couldn't find a legal document that says how these images can be used. Once again I think common sense applies so no funky modifications and no deceptive use of these images.

A question that comes to mind here: can I be critical of their products while still using an image? What if I'm talking about the health problems that could arise from drinking too much sugared water?

However, doesn't this fall into the same category as the previous company? You are basically "reviewing" a product and you're pointing out the good and bad things about it.

Conclusion

Many people seem to use images and content of others without giving it any thought so I think the above approach is a lot more on the right side of the law. It enables you to use freely provided material of logos, brands and trademarks which can be used as long as you use common sense.

If I have made a mistake in my reasoning then please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The safest option will always be to use images that you have made yourself, that have been put into the public domain or that have been released under a free image license. It's all pretty complex because I haven't even started about "fair use" which allows you to use copyrighted material as long as its usage is "fair".

This article was written by Simeon Visser. I am earning money online by writing here at HubPages.com. Would you like to earn money online as well? Read the success stories and sign up today to get started!

Comments

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    • profile image

      Alberto 3 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and georuens advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • profile image

      Mahalia 3 years ago

      That's an apt answer to an insreetting question

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I didn't realize companies have online press centers to make images available. That's really useful info. Thanks.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Nice informative hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      I didn't know about press released images. Thanks for the information.

    • simeonvisser profile image
      Author

      simeonvisser 7 years ago

      @Austinstar: Thanks for giving a further explanation about this. You're right that it's actually free publicity and they welcome that.

      I think you're right that it's fine as long as you play nice: give credit where credit is due and remove it if you're contacted about it.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 7 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Owners of trade names, logos and other product identification will quickly let you know if you are using their stuff illegally. This has happened to me. They are nice about it and will suggest that you either remove the offense or modify it in some appropriate way.

      Basically, you cannot make money off of their proprietary items or they will sue you. Other than that, you are actually promoting their product and giving them free publicity.

      Point is - don't be paranoid about using things, just be prudent and use common sense. Don't slam someone's hard work. Play nice.

    • simeonvisser profile image
      Author

      simeonvisser 7 years ago

      @Sagitaria: Yes, it can take quite a while to find a suitable image under a free license. When that fails I look for a press image and that's usually enough to find a suitable image. There are also lots of photos of celebrities under a free image license.

      @psychicdog.net: Disclaimers are always a good thing. I also have one in this article saying that I'm not a lawyer :-) As long as you show that you want to treat someone else's trademarks and logos with respect it's usually fine and you're covered.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 7 years ago

      Good Hub. Logos or Trademarks are different to Artwork as I understand it because the artist basically hands their art over for the business to use unless there is an agreement to the contrary (would be unusual). My site http://www.GoTweed.com.au uses logos/trademarks extensively - these are part of a company's market identity and brand awareness raising. If you put in a disclaimer about not being associated with the logos you list - For example, trademarks found on this site should not be assumed to be authorized, associated with or sponsored by the owner of the trademark and may be for display and information purposes only - I believe you are covered - I've never had a problem yet and businesses regularly provide me with their logos and trademarks.

    • profile image

      Sagitaria 7 years ago

      This is a really useful hub, thanks. I'm always looking for suitable photos for articles and searching through Flickr can take hours with no guarantee of finding the right one!

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