[Clipart] Copyrighted material appearing on the website.

Jason Simanek jsimanek at gmail.com
Mon Mar 15 06:27:05 PDT 2010

On 03/15/2010 12:53 AM, chovynz wrote:
> Conversally, I would say that clipart of copyrighted designs (in the
> physical) are ok. If we stuck to a hard line like "No clipart of a
> copyrighted/recognisable brand of car" then we would have no clipart
> whatsoever of any technology since everything is patented, and we would
> have no clipart of any people without their express consent (which in
> many cases is impossible to get). "Clipart" is different to "Designs".

For the record, you don't want to confuse patents with copyrights. 
Patents, at least in the U.S., refer to unique solutions or methods to 
solve problems or tasks. Patents also have a very short lifespan. In the 
U.S. they are only intended to protect inventors so that they have a few 
years to market their original product without being undercut by larger 
existing companies/manufacturers. This isn't always the case due to the 
U.S. patent system having been... hijacked. But it is the actual reason 
for existence of patent protection.

Copyright is much different. Copyrights in the U.S. applies to written 
text and pretty much anything remotely considered artistic. A copyright 
is protected for up to [I think] 60 years after the DEATH of the creator 
(you can thank Walt Disney for that). So this is a very different thing.

Anyway, as a professional graphic designer and sometime illustrator, I 
am quite certain that Volkswagen cannot sue you for taking a photograph 
or making a drawing of a VW Beetle. You just can't make an image of 
their logo, reuse their pitch line or stuff like that. The car's design 
might fall under copyright, but if you aren't building a car that looks 
exactly like a VW Beetle and selling it for profit, you aren't breaking 
their copyright. A drawing of a car is not a car.

Just to be safe, you'll probably want to leave logos or logotypes off of 
any such illustrations. You should be in the clear.

Rule of thumb: if it's already 2-D artwork, don't copy it. If you are 
making a drawing of a physical object you are creating an original piece 
of artwork.

U.S. Copyright Office

The 'Frequently Asked Questions' is quite good. Not that U.S. copyright 
and patent law is the only country's laws to be worried about, but as I 
understand it the U.S. has the most strict laws in place.

Hope this helps, but if you can find a lawyer to help out that wouldn't 

-Jason Simanek

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