When Making a Flyer Do You Have to Get the Rights to Use Other Organizations' Labels?

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While it may be an easy process in the digital age to find, save and use digital labels or logos from other organizations' websites with the purpose of using them in flyers for your business, doing so without getting permission from the owner of the content can incur serious legal consequences. Because terms of use for copyrighted labels and logos vary greatly depending on the organization in question, it is crucial to become familiar with the desired organization's legal terms and also contact the organization directly for permission to avoid accidentally infringing on copyright.

Fair Use Laws

If you wish to use another organization's logo in flyers for an educational, non-commercial purpose, you may not be required to seek permission for use of the image. The U.S. Copyright Office outlines that "Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports." However, in the case of digital logos, many organizations indicate specific instructions on their website as to how you may use their copyrighted material. Seeking permission to use the image, even if you believe your use of the image may classify as fair use, is the safest way to avoid infringing copyright. If you cannot get permission, you may want to avoid using the image altogether.

Finding an Organization's Copyright Information

Almost all organizations that have a website with official labels or logos have their copyright information visible to the public on the Web. You may find the information at the bottom of the home page, the About Us page or elsewhere on an organization's website. The ASPCA, for example, includes an entire page devoted to their copyright terms in the About Us section on their website. Furthermore, on their Frequently Asked Questions page they include the section "Using Articles, Logos And Photos From the Website" where they summarize the terms of use for their content. On the other hand, some organizations may not display legal information on their website at all. Whether you have information about how you can use an organization's logos or not, the best course of action is to contact the organization directly for permission.

Asking for Permission

Large organizations may have a number of contact emails, phone numbers or addresses depending on the purpose of the inquiry. If an organization indicates specific contact instructions for requesting permission, communicate with the organization as indicated. Otherwise, contact the organization using the most relevant email, phone number or address suited to your purpose. For instance, if you are looking to use an organization's logo to create flyers that advertise a fundraiser, you way want to direct your inquiry to the organization's media department or equivalent. When writing an email or letter seeking permission, provide the organization with any information necessary to describe your intended use of their logo or label. Make sure to save a copy of your letter or email for your records to confirm that you communicated with the organization.

Limitations on Use

How an organization responds to your request for permission will vary, but you may commonly find that if an organization gives you permission to use their logo they will ask you to meet a set of terms regarding how you can use it. For instance, you may be required to include text written by the organization with your use of the logo. Additionally, you may not be able to resize the image or digitally edit it in any way. Such terms protect the original state of the label or logo and also ensure that the logo represents the organization as initially intended when it is reproduced.

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