Understanding Copyright Laws: Artwork from large corporations

Protect your business and your customer with this copyright advice. 

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If you are dealing with a large corporation, take extra precaution. Using artwork or logos from a corporation should be handled differently than incorporating designs from a local business, even if the employee is local.

What happens when your local insurance agent approaches you wanting several awards for his employees? Naturally, we think that because he is an agent of this large corporation that he also has the right to use the company’s logo. Not so fast.

A corporation can come down on not only you, but also on the local distributor, declaring that the distributor had no right to use the company’s registered trademark without approval from headquarters. You need to find out who holds the rights to the logo or trademark and make sure that you have a piece of paper signed by the customer. The document should include the all-important “safe and hold harmless clause”-a legal declaration that the signer has the right to initiate the job and will not hold you liable for any damages should there be a problem in the future.

Always refrain from using artwork such as the Harley Davidson logo or your favorite sports team for personal use or to share with your friends. Some people argue that as long as no money changes hands that this is okay, but what happens when your buddy sells the piece to someone else?

These big corporations take copyright infringement seriously. They actually employ “scouts” who travel the country on the lookout for infringements. They will serve you with a “cease and desist” if they find you using their logos and may sue you for damages if you have really gone into production with their images. There is, of course, much more to all of this, so it’s important to educate yourself.

-Ruth Dobbins, Etch Master

Ruth Dobbins

With over 35 years in the glass business, Ruth Dobbins offers experience in fused and cast glass, as well as in glass-etching techniques. She owns Professional Glass Consultants with her husband Norm and holds a master's in printmaking and art history.

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