Ask crowdSPRING: Can Royalty-free Stock Be Used For Logo Design? Ross | February 27th, 2009

Creatives often ask us whether royalty-free stock can be used for logo design. This is an important topic and a serious issue. If you don’t have rights to your design (because you are using stock and this is not legally allowed), you harm the client, yourself, crowdSPRING, and our entire community. Such action not only violates crowdSPRING’s standards of conduct and user agreement, but you also expose yourself to legal risk. Most of the time, creatives ask us about iStockphoto – the largest stock site. Here is a short Q&A:

1. Can royalty-free images from iStockphoto be used for logo design?

Answer: No. Many designers assume that they can freely use royalty-free images purchased on sites like http://www.istockphoto.com in their designs. While it may be appropriate and lawful to use royalty-free images in most graphic design projects such as web design (please carefully read the license rights so that you understand whether you have the legal right to use the image), there are often specific restrictions on using royalty-free images for logo design.

Simply put: iStockphoto prohibits the use of any royalty-free images purchased from their site for logo designs. This is stated very clearly in section 4(a)(4) of the iStockphoto license:

“You may not … use any of the Content as part of a trade-mark, design-mark, trade-name, business name, service mark, or logo”.

While some people assume that iStockphoto’s “Exended License” provides additional rights, the extended license does not permit the use of royalty-free images from iStockphoto for logo design.

Other stock sites have similar licensing restrictions. For example, Shutterstock’s license expressly states that you may not:

“Use any Image (in whole or in part) as a trademark, service mark, logo, or other indication of origin, or as part thereof , or to otherwise endorse or imply the endorsement of any goods and/or services.”

2. Why doesn’t iStockphoto permit royalty-free images to be used for logo design?

Answer: iStockphoto most likely has many reasons why it doesn’t permit royalty-free images to be used for logo design. Keep in mind that a company purchasing a logo (which often includes a mark) doesn’t want to see the mark/graphic to be used by other businesses. Because stock designs can be sold to hundreds, if not thousands of customers, it’s possible that thousands of companies could end up using the same graphics in their logos. This presents numerous problems, including making it very difficult if not impossible to obtain trademark protection for a logo. To address this concern (and other concerns), iStockphoto’s license expressly prohibits the use of royalty-free images for logos.

3. Do other stock sites permit royalty-free images to be used for logo design?

Answer: There are many stock sites, and it’s not possible for us to answer this question for all stock sites. You must carefully review the legal agreements and licenses for any site that you plan to use to confirm that you are legally permitted to use stock purchased from those sites, in a logo design. Keep in mind that when you enter into a legal contract on crowdSPRING, you represent that you have the rights to your design and the right to sell your design to the client.

Do you have other questions related to this issue? Please feel free to ask in the comments.

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  • vibes35

    Ross -

    Great points and a friendly reminder! i have seen alot of these questions around the forum.
    Thank you for clarifying! :)

  • VictoriaAnnDesign

    Should go without saying really.

  • ansys

    Thanks for sharing this thing as so many times these topics goes unnoticed.

  • intrepidguppy

    Thanks for this important and ignorance-quashing tidbit. We are all forewarned :)

  • brempel

    How about free vector images from other sites? Or does it depend on the site you download them from?

  • http://www.crowdspring.com Ross

    vibes35 and ansys – you’re very welcome.

    VictoriaAnnDesign – should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many times we have to say it!

    intrepidguppy – Cool!

    brempel – every site has its own policies and license terms. It depends on the site, as you’ve pointed out…

  • http://www.crowdspring.com Ross

    vibes35 and ansys – you’re very welcome.

    VictoriaAnnDesign – should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many times we have to say it!

    intrepidguppy – Cool!

    brempel – every site has its own policies and license terms. It depends on the site, as you’ve pointed out…

  • xorobinxo

    I really wish I would have read this before I started making logos, I just lost out on a $350 Award, But I learned my lesson the hard way….NEVER USE FREE VECTOR GRAPHICS DOWNLOADED FROM A RESOURCE SITE……EVER! Don’t do it guys!

  • trelliscreative

    Hi Ross,
    I’m a new buyer with a project ending soon, and wanted to know what the recourse is if a buyer finds out improperly obtained graphics found their way into a logo after a project closes.

    Just curious.

    Jason

  • http://www.crowdspring.com Ross

    trelliscreative – you should confirm with the creative you intend to award to make sure that they didn’t use any stock images in the logo. Ultimately, they are representing in the disclosure and in the contract that it’s their original work. We would do our best to assist if an issue arose after a project closes.

  • http://www.crowdspring.com Ross

    trelliscreative – you should confirm with the creative you intend to award to make sure that they didn’t use any stock images in the logo. Ultimately, they are representing in the disclosure and in the contract that it’s their original work. We would do our best to assist if an issue arose after a project closes.

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  • subha

    I really wish I would have read this before I started making logos, I just lost out on a $1000 Award, But I learned my lesson the hard way…(.also I have not seen the logo before I made I don’t know how can it match)NEVER USE FREE VECTOR GRAPHICS DOWNLOADED FROM A RESOURCE SITE……EVER! Don’t do it guys!

  • http://www.crowdspring.com Ross

    subha – I am sorry you learned your lesson the hard way – but your advice is spot on.

  • http://www.crowdspring.com Ross

    subha – I am sorry you learned your lesson the hard way – but your advice is spot on.

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  • mkli

    I am using some free vectors mainly from http://www.all-free-download.com/
    mostly to get an idea and as a frame board.
    Is this allowed?
    Thanks
    Marina

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