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Legality of logo usage on website

Posted on 2008-10-23
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Last Modified: 2013-12-20
In the process of learning some simple website developement I decided to make site that links to resources I often use.

While I was using logo's to link to the resources I started wondering about the legality of what I was doing. Can I use company logo's as long as I only provide a link to their website, or do I need permission from each and every one?
I don't need to use logo's, but it sure makes an amateurs website look better than the use of plain text.

I have only uploaded a few so far, and I hope someone can tell me if I need to remove them.
My website is http://www.techpage1.com

Thanks,
Rayner
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Question by:rayves
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Expert Comment

by:hielo
ID: 22786369
you should always ask the company in question for permission. Even though what you are doing may be "harmless", the company in question may not want individuals to think that they are affiliated with your site (for whatever reason).
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by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 22788625
Also, most sites include a terms of use link on every page.  Look for links like "Legal", "Terms of Service", "TOS", "Terms of Use", "Copyright and Privacy Policy", "Linking Policy" etc.  Since webmasters get tired of answering the same questions over and over again, we tend to put that information in that document.
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by:caldernet
ID: 22790183
For the same reasons you cannot use company logos on your resume, you should not use any images or logos from another website that you do not know for certain is in the public domain, or the terms of use indicate that you can freely them for your purposes.

Now in practice it's probably not a big deal as long as your website does not "harm" that company's reputation. (They may even appreciate it - but unfortunately might not want to officially give you permission in case you go off your nut someday and post "COMPANY ABC SUCKS" along with the logo they gave you permission to use.)

They would have to prove "damages" etc. And as long as you're not criticizing these companies, they'll probably let it slide, and if not, you would probably only get a "cease and desist" letter.

BUT

There is always the risk that one of these companies may play hardball to "defend their corporate identity" (for instance, I wouldn't post a Disney logo under any circumstances) which could cost you legal fees etc. even if they couldn't squeeze any money out of you.

AND

If the logo you are using happens to have been created using other commercial images (eg. Getty) then THEY might go after you. Getty has been sending out demands for $1000s when they find one of their images on a website...and even webmasters acting in good faith have felt the need to settle.

Now, if you were writing a news story about a company, because of the "freedom of the press" then you are PROBABLY (to avoid liability myself, I don't want to tell you 100%) allowed to use their logo as an accompanying image as part of the "fair use" provisions of copyright law.
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scrathcyboy earned 500 total points
ID: 22792319
Actually, in this case I disagree with the above.  Using intellectual property is all about INTENT.

If your INTENT is to make it appear like this logo is part of your site, then yes, there could be a problem.

But if you are using an identifiable logo, like Ford, or GE, or M$ JUST -- repeat JUST -- to promote their site, any company that finds offense in this is supremely idiotic.

Using a LOGO as a LINK to the site which OWNS the LOGO is only good promotional intent.  So I would do it wholesale.  I have seen sites where they have just about every logo you can imagine, and the logo links to that company site, and the companies are ecstatic with it.  I can give you examples if you want.

So go ahead and do it.  As long as the link to their site matches their logo, you are doing FREE promotion for them.  If any disagree, they have hundreds of internet sites to take down before they get to yours.
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by:gxp071
ID: 22794708
just don't do it unless you have the express written permission of the copyright holder, you will get sued at some point and you wont have a leg to stand on.
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Expert Comment

by:Jason C. Levine
ID: 22798526
>> you will get sued at some point

You MAY get sued at some point.  The way the asker is using the logos (linking to sites he likes, positive promotion), I agree with SB that no action will be taken against good pub.

Now, if one of us were to start E-E-Sux.com or similar and use the logo or other copyrighted/registered information and the target found out about it, a C+D letter would be in the immediate future for both you and your ISP.
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Author Comment

by:rayves
ID: 22799102
Thank you all for your input on this issue.

What I get from all this is that I have no legal right to use company logos, even thou I link directly to them in a positive manner. Still, I probably won't get in any trouble by doing so.

A generic link for all companies will make my site look even less appealing, but the 'probably' of the last paragraph might turn out to be an expensive one. Guess I'll have to come up with another solution before I add any more links.

Scratchyboy, I'd really like to take you up on your offer and get a few examples before making a final decision.
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Expert Comment

by:scrathcyboy
ID: 22799296
I still disagree with the above comments.  You will NOT get sued if your use of a company's logo is giving (read "promoting") a link to their site.  Every back link to a website from another only adds to its page rank on google and other search engines.  You are giving them free advertising.  If companies objected to this, the word would get around the internet and everyone would stop linking to their sites = lower page rank.

"I have no legal right to use company logos"  -- if you are worried, ask the company.  I've seen hundreds of pages in my travels that use company logos, why don't you just do a google search for IMAGES (not text) and pick the company names you want to use their logos from, and just see how many people are doing it.  That way you can prove to yourself what is going on, rather than relying on opinions here.  You will very soon find out how many others are using these logos -- assuming they are popular companies.  
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Author Comment

by:rayves
ID: 22799690
I did the image search and feel a lot more comfortable using logos even without asking permission. I refuse to believe they all have asked for permission and given my expected search rank I doubt they ever find me anyway. If they do they obviously have way to much spare time on their hand.

Not quite sure what would be the correct way to award points on this matter, but I'll have to go with the solution that ended up being correct for me. Thank you all.
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Expert Comment

by:scrathcyboy
ID: 22800690
points usually go to the answer or answers that helped you the most with your question.  Good luck !!
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