In the past 10 years, I’ve made websites for a wide variety of organizations. I’ve made them for businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. One thing most have in common is a misunderstanding what is acceptable in terms of logo, and other image use, on their site.
For example, many sites have logos that belong to other organizations on their sites. The logos may be from manufacturers whose products they sell, or from professional organizations of which they are a member. The logos may be from social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
More often than not, these logos are used without explicit permission from those the logos represent. The website owner borrowing the logos isn’t doing so maliciously. In fact, most of them are convinced they are just giving the other websites some “free advertising”.
Let me once again be the bearer of bad news: that just ain’t so. What that is, is theft.
Most large organizations spend very large sums of money to create and protect their identity and image. From creating the logo, to writing extensive guidelines regarding how it can be shown, where, and when, to deciding what businesses and nonprofits to partner with.
Because they’ve invested small fortunes (or even large ones) in their branding, these organizations have a vested interest in controlling the display of their logo.
Let me give you a scenario I was in years ago.
I worked on a site for a retailer who sold tires. He was quite certain that I should be able to just use images from pamphlets and manufacturer websites on his site. I told him I would do that but only with permission from the manufacturers.
Imagine his surprise at being told by MANUFACTURERS WHOSE PRODUCTS HE SOLD that he either
a. was not allowed to use a logo or material from manufacturer pamphlets and websites at all
b. that he could use this imagery, but only within very specific guidelines. In fact, there was a specific place on the manufacturer website for him to log in and procure logos and other images.
His manufacturers did not care how much of their product he sold. He was not to poach their logo and photography for his site. Those manufacturers did NOT see his activities as “free advertising”. They saw it as theft.
Some of you may have the Facebook logo on your site. If you look at Facebook’s Brand Permissions Center, they say this: “We generally do not allow the use of the Facebook logo. If you would like to request special permission for a specific use, please use the Permission Request Form.”
However, Facebook makes special widgets and badges for your use. There is also a “Find us on Facebook” button and they outline specifically how it can be used.
Are you using the right imagery from Facebook? Did you procure written permission for use of that logo?
MySpace is even tougher. They don’t give you a special branding page you can pop in and pull content from. You have to email their legal department and request to use the logo. They will then ask you specific questions. For a nonprofit I work with, it took them from their first request in September 2009 all the way to April 2010 to get approval to use the MySpace logo. And MySpace emailed over a specific logo that was to be used. Additionally, permission must be renewed annually. This is not a “forever” kind of deal.
So watch what you put on your site. A general rule of thumb is: if you did not make it, or the author isn’t giving it away for free, or you didn’t hire someone to make it for you, then get written permission. Always.