Do I need a permission to show pictures of a printed circuit board of a device (consumer electronics) on my personal blog? I would like to show how certain modifications to the product can be made. I took some pictures during the process. Does sharing these pictures infringe any IP rights?


Yes, you may

The layout of the board and its appearance are not protected by copyright, because they are not expressions or any other type of copyrightable content. Even if they were (say if some protested art was displayed on the board) you are displaying this for instructional purposes, and not harming any market for the board, so fair use is likely to apply (in the U.S.).

The device could be protected by patent, but you are not copying or imitating the board, nor showing anyone how to do so, so that would not apply.

You are not selling or advertising the board, nor knock-offs of it, so trademark protection would not apply, even if a protected trademark is visible on th board. Just in case, be sure to make clear that your video is not authorized or endorsed by the maker of the board.

  • 1
    I'd be very surprised if the pattern of copper traces on the PCB is not covered by copyright. However I agree that your fair-use argument would probably be sufficient. – Paul Johnson Dec 31 '20 at 9:35
  • The copper traces are done by routing software automatically, so I wonder if this would allow claiming any copyright? The traces are located in serveral multi-layers, so a photo would only show the top layer which would not give away much. However, I wonder if "to show how certain modifications to the product can be made" might violate some law and/or disclaimer? – UweD Dec 31 '20 at 14:08
  • @UweD: it may violate DMCA. – Fizz Dec 31 '20 at 15:43
  • 2
    @Fizz If the instruction is of a means of circumventing a technical measure to restrict usage lawful under the DMCA, it might, yes. The question doesn't say that, however. – David Siegel Dec 31 '20 at 15:48

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