View Full Version : copyright confusion
02-12-2003, 08:28 AM
Hi everyone...I searched the archives to try to find an answer to this question, but couldn't find my specific question...and like someone else said, the copyright laws are very confusing, even to the experts!
I am in the process of doing some pictures that will be done to illustrate particular time periods...and some will have store fronts. gas stations etc. depicted in them. They won't be any buildings that exist, but I am wondering if I am allowed to use company names on signs outside the buildings..like "Drink Coca-cola" and "Mobile Gasoline"? Most old buildings had things painted on the side, or signs advertising drinks...or should I just put things like "cold soda" and "Gas sold here" (which doesn't seem as historically accurate to me. I don't want to get into any trouble as I am hoping to be able to sell these eventually. Thanks for any input you can give!
02-12-2003, 09:15 AM
I may be mstaken here, but I have seen many such paintings, and fromwhat I have been able to learn, what you are planning would not upset any legal or ethical standards. You are not copying any work by a previous artist or author, so copyright issues will not apply here. This brings us to trademarks, such as Coca-Cola and Mobil, these being the examples that you gave. If you painting these for sale, as I assume you are, then you have to be careful, but not overly concerned.
If you were to make a blatant copy of a trademarked image, such as the logos of these companies, that being the sum total of your painting, then the companies involved may be a little upset with you. (How Andy Warhol managed with those Campbell's soup cans I cannot say). Street scenes that happen to have those advertising signs displayed, however, are a different matter entirely. They are incidental to the painting, and are not infringing on the trademarks. In fact, some of these companies are secretly pleased that you would do that, because every time that the buyer of such a painting lokks at the work, he or she is reminded of the product that is showing in the painting.
Certain companies such as Harley Davidson do not like you painting images of their product for sale without their approval (and subsequent "cut"), but if you are painting a street scene, and a Harley happens to be in the painting but not the focus of the painting, than all will be well. Yes, I too have seen paintings where the motorcycle was the focus, but what they don't know about ain't gonna hurt them. It's when you advertise the work using their brand name, or put the brand name into the title of your work that they really get bent out of shape.
Car companies don't worry about it. They are rather pleased that you choose to represent their product (providing it is not in a negative manner), so you are okay there. I made a Bentley the focus of a painting that I did a few years back, and I needed to get the colour of the vehicle "right". After explaining what I was about, I was given a colour guide (!) which I still have.
Don't worry about it, paint what you want, how you want it. Good luck.
02-13-2003, 05:08 PM
I, too, have seen a number of works that have old advertising for the companies such as Coca-cola, Mobile, etc. If you want to be sure, contact the companies in question and get it in writing. It's better to ask and have express written permission, than to gamble on a lawsuit, and these days, you just never know.
Car companies don't worry about it
Actually, there is legislation here in the U.S. concerning reproducing automobiles as artwork or similar for profits. The way I understand it, the companies are claiming that depicting an automobile that is newer than 25 years old is infringing on what they call "trade dress" and is a copyright violation.
but if you are painting a street scene, and a Harley happens to be in the painting but not the focus of the painting, than all will be well
I wouldn't be caught dead having a Harley in any of my work. This company actually tried to trademark the SOUND of their motorcycles, and having had a run-in with them at a former company I worked for, I wouldn't mess with them.
Bottom line: If you think it might be a problem, I would check first. It never hurts to ask, just to be sure.
02-14-2003, 08:45 AM
Thanks for the replies carguy and mel-ink, It just seems so confusong trying to figure out what is o.k. to use without any repercussions...you are probably right, best to get permission and be sure. I would think that companies would like the free advertising also, but you never know!
02-17-2003, 10:01 PM
I was JUST sitting down to paint a cat sleeping inside a designer' handbag, with a designer scarf around his head.
SO from what you're saying, if I paint what I see (the bag and scarf) exactly how they look, complete with Labels . . . I could get in trouble?
02-17-2003, 10:35 PM
excerpt from the Legal Guide for Visual Artists, Tad Crawford, 1999,
page 79, Trademarks....
"Occasionally artists wish to include a trademark in an artwork. For example, an artist may paint a street scene which includes a sign with a company logo. Use of the trademark in this way should not be a problem for the artist, except in the unlikely case in which the public might be confused by the painting and imagine it was created by or was a product of the company depicted in the painting."
Another part of Mr. Crawford's book deals with defamation claims. If your artwork could be considered an attack on a person's reputation by print, writing, pictures, or spoken word, then you could be sued for defamation caused by your artwork. A company is known by its trademark, so it follows that you would not want to "defame" Coca Cola in some way. Of course this only applies if the artwork reaches the public.
Mr. Crawford's book is an excellent resource for many of the questions I've had over the years about copyright issues. You might like to pick up a copy...I think its out now in an updated version.
02-18-2003, 12:19 AM
I do need to get one of those books!
Just when I think I have everything . . .
so from what you quoted I'm assuming I won't get in much trouble if my kitty sleeps in say, a herme's or gucci handbag . .
I'm still pretty sure that if I paint the scarf (which is the artwork of some famous guy) I would be stepping on someone's toes though......
02-21-2003, 11:47 PM
If you are really worried, just call the company's PR office. I once used Brooks Brothers, Rolls Royce and Moet Chandon (champagne) in a marketing ad for another item. The main textual lead was "Some things are always classic. The clothes are by Brooks Brothers, the car is by Rolls, the wine is by Moet... and the .....is by....."
The model was dressed in vintage Brooks Clothes with an antique Rolls with a silver ice bucket on a stand with the Moet bottles. I called the companies to get their okay and they simply fell all over themselves to help me. Brooks dug the clothes out of their storage; Rolls found an antique Rolls in the my area for the photo shot; and Moet sent the bottles of champagne.
Of course, it didn't hurt that the market for my product was 100% identical their target markets ..... veddy, veddy Virginia hunt country.
And no, we never put anything in writing (and I'm a lawyer.)
05-13-2003, 11:16 PM
on a person's reputation by print, writing, pictures, or spoken word
does that mean if you painted a picture of someone and they didnt like it and felt that it hurt their reputation you could be sued?
05-13-2003, 11:53 PM
I know from doing illustration / book covers etc. that if you paint a person (to sell the painting) you must get them to sign a "model release" form.
And as for painting famous people, just remember that (unless you have a knack for sneaking up on the stars and getting your pictures) some famous photographer took those photos you're looking at, and if they catch you painting from them without the right to, I'm pretty sure they can sue you. Often they sell the rights to paint from their photographs.
I know this doesn't exactly address the question you asked, but I really don't know that one aside from the above.
05-20-2003, 12:51 AM
I would think that companies would like the free advertising also, but you never know!Since Coca-Cola makes a LOT of money on "licensing" their logo in products - lunch pails, piggy banks, t-shirts etc. I would be VERY cautious. Ever been to Vegas? They have a whole store with a three-story bottle with a glass elevator in it.
They don't need the publicity and they don't consider other people using their brand in artwork "free advertising" they may consider it infringement because you are profiting from something they already profit from (at the rate stuff moves out of that Vegas store I think they sell more shirts than pop there). A very big part of their business is this kind of licensing - same with the car companies.
If it is a very small part of the image, and the main "message" is the overall scene, chances are it will be okay with them. But I would "CYA" and get the permissions up front, can't hurt, and who knows? Maybe your request will cross the desk of the person who buys art for the company. It may take a while though - I would consider 2-6 weeks reasonable turnaround time - faster than that is remarkable for companies this size.
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