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Let's say I run an organization called Shoesies-For-Kids.

I know about this really cool art company online. They have some awesome pictures of shoes and I contact them with a "Hey there! I love your shoe pictures. Could I get permission to use pictures of your red shoes?"

They email me back with "Well, sorry we aren't giving permission to anyone to use pictures of our red shoes anymore. However, we are giving permission to use our blue shoes. Would you like a copyright permissions document?"

I respond back, "Yeah! That would be awesome can I get that permissions doc"

"Sure" they email back "Here ya go!"

And here is how the permissions doc reads.

"Blah blah blah this doc gives permission blah blah blah, you may use pictures of our blue, black, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow, and white shoes."

I really really like the red shoes picture. Even tho its obvious they don't want to give permission for their red shoes, the copyright document says we can use the red shoe picture. Maybe they just haven't updated their copyright doc in awhile? So whats the deal here? What is some legal text I could look at to understand how this scenario works legally?

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gnasher729's answer is good. Another answer from another perspective is that the permission they gave you clearly meant to exclude the red shoes, and the record will show both parties agreed to that. A mistake in another part of the document does not invalidate that. Presented with all the evidence you've presented, my only conclusion is that their document saying you could use red shoes was in error and both of you would know it upon review. I'm not a lawyer but I think you'd lose big on this one if they decided to sue.

  • "A mistake in another part of the document does not invalidate that."? I know what you mean here, and I believe you are correct, do you know a US law that I could review that could help me understand better? – Linuxmint Aug 18 '16 at 15:44
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    @Linuxmint I'm afraid the relevant law is going to be common law, so I won't be able to reference specific statutes or anything. I would recommend you look into common law, possibly contract law and specifically how mistakes or errors are handled. The written permission document is only evidence of what the agreement is - it's good evidence but not the only evidence. All they have to show is that you knew or should have known about the red shoe issue based on those e-mails and - provided there's no disagreement about the facts - I think with some research you'll convince yourself on the law. – Patrick87 Aug 18 '16 at 16:09
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In practice, you get sued not for doing things that are illegal or similar, but for doing things that upset someone with money to sue. In addition, it's very nice of them to let you use pictures of most of their shoes, so you should be nice and respect their wishes for red shoes as well.

If you use photos of the red shoes, there's a risk that you are taken to court and even if you win, it will cost you a lot of money. And a lot of goodwill. You'll never be allowed to use photos of their sandals or shorts. So don't do it.

The company should be advised to be more careful what they write when they give someone some permission.

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