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I am designing a logo for a for profit company. This logo design consists of letters that represent the name of the company but also incorporate a silhouette of a city skyline merged with these letters. I found a simple city skyline silhouette through a Google Search. I modified it slightly and incorporated it into the logo design. The image vector was listed as royalty free. I have since learned that "royalty free" obviously does not mean it is free to use in the manner that I intended. I have found this same image in more than one place, with different contributor/artist names listed in association with it.

The company I am making the logo for intends to use it obviously to represent their business, but also intends to place the logo on clothing and other items that potentially may be sold by the company as merchandise in addition to their regular course of business.

Will there be problems with the logo if it incorporates the image described above? And if so, are there any ways around it, other than trying to design my own city silhouette to replace it?

Here is the link to the original I downloaded to use and the site from which I downloaded it: https://www.kisspng.com/png-birmingham-skyline-silhouette-royalty-free-skyline-750511/preview.html

UPDATE: I sent the following email to this site regarding the image in this link, https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/birmingham-silhouette-vector-6709511

To whom it may concern:

Is it allowed for me to download and use the shape of the city outline incorporated in this image (see ID and link below), modified slightly, as part of a larger logo design to be used by a for profit company? For clarification, I do not intend to use this entire image, but only the solid black portion to be merged with letters of the company logo.

I attempted to contact the Contributor/Artist directly, but did not see that contact info on your site. If you can provide it, and it is necessary to contact said artist, please let me know.

Image ID: 6709511

Their response was:

Dear Brandy,

Yes you can use our images in this way, Best Regards / Admin Team

Based on the Answers I have received so far, it is clear that the best option is to just bite the bullet and create from scratch the silhouette of city skyline I want to incorporate into the logo. That said, the Company I am making the design for has seen the original design and really does NOT want it changed, unless I can convince them of the legal ramifications for not doing so. Would this site's terms and provided image make any difference in what I am trying to accomplish for this company? (I assume that based on your answers, that because the image in this latter link is similar to images that i have found elsewhere that it means their authorization to use the image "in this way" is in doubt).

Thanks again,

Brandy

closed as off-topic by Nij, A. K., JeffUK, Andrew, Trish Mar 18 at 17:19

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  • There is no way to know unless we can see the original and it's license terms... – Ron Beyer Mar 4 at 18:08
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I have found this same image in more than one place, with different contributor/artist names listed in association with it.

That means that you cannot trust that any of these are the original artist or the current copyright holder.

If you were to use this image as part of the logo design, both you and your client could be sued for copyright infringement by whoever is the actual copyright holder, and damages could be based on your income or profits obtained using the image.

You will need either to design your own image from a blank start, or use an image from a reliable stock image site, probably one with a fee attached, that will guarantee (not just "believe") the copyright status of an image and the usage rights you will obtain.

It is unlikely that any image designed for computer use and found on the internet will be in the public domain, although some will have permissive licenses that allow reuse under specified conditions. See this chart to learn when items enter the public domain under US law. Somewhat different rules apply in the EU and elsewhere, often simply life of the author plus 70 years, depending on the country.

  • If I make a silhouette from tracing the outline in an actual photograph of the city skyline I want to incorporate into my logo, will there be any copyright issues arising from that usage of the photo? And thank you for your response, which has proven very helpful. – Brandy Mar 4 at 22:41
  • @Brandy If you took the photo, definitely not. If you have permission from the photographer (or copyright owner if copyright has been transferred) , no problem. If the photo has been released under a permissive license, one that allows derivative works and commercial use, no problem (then you have permission). Otherwise there could be a problem. Can you take your own photo or arrange with someone to do so? – David Siegel Mar 4 at 22:55
  • Would be complicated for me to do so, but I intend to work something out . I Really want to make sure there are no potential future issues for this company down the road with regards to this logo design, especially since it is one of my early attempts at Logo Design and I desire to build up a good reputation. Thanks again for your prompt and extremely helpful answers. – Brandy Mar 4 at 23:00
  • @Brandy Tracing one work to make another does create a derivative work. Anything where you take a work and modify it, whether manually or via some automation,results in a derivative work unless you modify it so much that there is essentially none of the original work left, or too little to be copyright4ed on its own, and that is a rather low bar. – David Siegel Mar 4 at 23:45
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Read the TOS at https://www.kisspng.com/dmca.html (sic):

All the content on Kisspng.com is either submitted to Kisspng.com by email or is readily available in various places on the Internet and believed to be in public domain. Content (including images and videos) posted are eblieved to be posted within ou rights according to hte U.S. Copyright Fair Use Act (Title 17 , U.S. Code.)

On that same page is a DMCA takedown contact form. In other words, kisspng.com is simply a site for "sharing" images without any verification of copyright of what is collected or uploaded, or a understanding of copyright law and what may constitute Fair Use (Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center).

That means there is no way to know who holds the copyright to that image. By using the image, you risk infringing on someone's copyright. "Royalty free" has little to do with copyright.

In order to not violate copyright, design your own images from scratch; then you will hold copyright from the moment of creation. If you're a beginning designer, it's a good idea to get a clear understanding of copyright sooner rather than later.

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