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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Seeing a lot of recent questions here about the legality of using someone else's art/design. Sometimes it's very clear that it's copyright infringement, way too similar to a famous company's logo, etc.

But do you check for other, less obvious infringement? If someone brings in an original logo that has no obvious copyright issues, do you check whether they licensed the font used to create it? Yes, I know you can't copyright a typeface, only the digital format itself, but if someone grabbed a nice font you don't recognize that hasn't had any kind of adjustment that might put them in a grey area of typeface vs digital info (kerning, etc), especially if the logo is for a local company older than you are, how much research do you do to find out?

It used to be much common for a print & design house to retain ownership of artwork than it is now, thus forcing you to use them for all products you need. If someone had their logo designed at a company 15 years ago and their prices are too high now, if they bring you a high resolution copy of the art but don't have access to the original design files, do you ask them why not?

I know a lot of these questions are more of a "that's something to ask a lawyer", but I'm curious at what point do you start looking into it?
 

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I only worry about obvious infringments (i.e. sports logos, major company logos). I don't really have time to be a detective. If someone brings me a hi-res jpeg of their small businesses logo, I just print it and don't think there is anything devious going on.

I know a lot of small businesses had logos designed for them and only have the jpegs or whatever because they had them designed some time ago, and either lost or never got the vector artwork because they didn't have any software to even open an eps.

I've never had a problem with this.

Good luck,
Nick
 

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I think Nick's comments are probably the standard among print shops.

Printers can be held accountable for infringement, so it's important to do the proper due diligence when a client brings in artwork. But the amount of research done probably falls somewhere in between what's legal and what's practical. A printer just can't spend hours of their time researching designs, fonts, etc. But if something is an obvious infringement or a printer has reason to believe a client doesn't have the rights to certain artwork, then they have an obligation to act on it.

A print shop can also have a standard waiver that the client can sign. This isn't necessarily fool proof, but can be useful in applicable situations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Another issue I've seen is that the company themselves may not be aware that their logo was created illegally. If they started five to ten years ago, the owner's son or manager's brother, fresh out of (or still in) design school created a great logo with a student or unpaid copy of Photoshop or Illustrator, with an ITC font they downloaded off the 'net that came with a nice free virus... do you point that out if they tell you "oh, my nephew did it for me"? Especially if it actually looks good and not like it came off the some free template website. How would you even go about legalizing it (aside from buying the typeface)?

I like the waiver idea. I'm finally trying to put my graphic design courses to good use, but I still don't see design becoming a major part of my business. In my area, it's difficult to find someone who will do a one-off of anything, be it a t-shirt or sign or letterhead. I know "setup fees" are often to simply not have to do work that's "not worth the time", which is why I have been looking into doing small things that can be subbed out when they get bigger. I'm not a good designer, just a copyist. I've "re-created" a lot of low res logos where the original company refused to give the file before going under (yes I do verify that they're actually dead), or the customer lost the originals.
 

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Another issue I've seen is that the company themselves may not be aware that their logo was created illegally. If they started five to ten years ago, the owner's son or manager's brother, fresh out of (or still in) design school created a great logo with a student or unpaid copy of Photoshop or Illustrator, with an ITC font they downloaded off the 'net that came with a nice free virus... do you point that out if they tell you "oh, my nephew did it for me"?
I think pointing this out to the client would be pushing the issue a bit too far. You as the printer can't really get too concerned with the Adobe licenses or font licenses. Where you want to be careful are the obvious infringements and making sure the client has the authority to use the artwork they bring you. If you point out every fault, you will lose business in a hurry. Don't be shady, but don't be impractical either. Find the right balance.

How would you even go about legalizing it (aside from buying the typeface)?
As long as the font characters are converted to outlines and the logo doesn't infringe on an existing logo (whether on purpose or coincidental), it is probably legal. So I'm not sure what you mean be going about legalizing a logo.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
As long as the font characters are converted to outlines and the logo doesn't infringe on an existing logo (whether on purpose or coincidental), it is probably legal. So I'm not sure what you mean be going about legalizing a logo.
I don't point out that kind of thing to potential customers, but I was curious as to whether or not anyone else worries about it at times like I do. As far as legalizing, I meant that if someone charges to create a logo with pirated software with a pirated font, then the logo itself is floating in a grey area. But it's "already too late" since it now exists. Once it's out of the original creator's hands, how do you make it "created legally"?

I know it's not common, but there have been cases where a medium to large sized design company has been found with lots of pirated software (usually due to disgruntled employees or competitors), sometimes not knowing or forgetting to remove software from a computer (i.e. they buy all new systems for their designers and accidentally leave Office on the older system that they gave to the secretary). I know the creators are liable for damages for any lawsuit that they lose, but I always wondered whether all the work they did is also considered pirated.
 
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