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Dash of Inspiration: Intellectual Property

September 23, 2013

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Marketability: Intellectual Property

We are finally to the last of the Submission Guideline categories, where we’ve been sharing tips and examples to help you better understand them. Last up is today’s topic and that’s:

MARKETABILITY: Intellectual Property   

The Submission Guidelines state this: Use of manufactured items such as a Teddy Bear must not infringe on the copyright of the manufacturer and must be of studio quality in the lighting and still-life composition of the photograph. In general, it is best not to use recognizable store-bought items, statues, monuments, national parks, bridges, public buildings, etc., or any sign, vehicle, tool, or product that a) Is recognizable by color, form, design, shape, or location and/or b) Any part of the brand, label or logo is showing in your photos unless you have written permission due to potential copyright infringement.

A surprising amount of people new to the professional design arena attempt to use quotes, song titles & lyrics, movie titles, and poems on and inside their greeting cards.  This is infringing on the intellectual property of either those who wrote the words, and/or those who purchased the rights to use those words.  You can often use quotes if, and ONLY if, you offer credit WITH the quote – this means if it’s on your card, the ‘by Mr. Data of Star Trek’ needs to be properly placed along with the quote. There are some quotes, such as those by Emily Dickinson which you can never use. So do your research BEFORE you submit your card and offer the link to your findings allow usage in your Note to Reviewer.

Another important area to remember is that much of the Bible/Scripture is copyright protected and you may not use any version of the bible/scripture that is not officially in public domain. You may use the King James version for example, as it is in the public domain.

Using clip art that came with software on your computer or that which you bought on a CD/DVD are more often than not meant for personal use, or when they state business use, are referring to allow use on fliers, business cards, newsletter, etc. for use in your business, NOT to use in your designs for resale. If you want to use clip art for your cards, then find those which have very clear TOU (terms of use) if you can’t find the TOU, don’t use them.

Brushes, Stock, Patterns, Styles & such also fall under this category.  Do not use elements that are not authorized for commercial use for resale. If you do use brushes authorized for commercial use you must adhere to the original artist’s Terms of Use (TOU) and the GCU Submission Guidelines. Be aware that URLs are not allowed in Artist Notes. Some designers such as those on deviantART or stock images at places such as Morguefile, require that you give them credit in the art itself in some way rather than just in the notes which do not print with the card. Not following the contributor’s TOU can also cause a decline for violating intellectual property rights.

Here are some good tips on how to give credit for commercial use items:

Dash of Inspiraton: Terms of Use

Dash of Inspiration: Credit Where Credit is Due

Dash of Inspiration: Finding CU Elements

GCU, unlike any other site I know of, has a running list of some of the intellectual property issues as they are announced. For example, you can not use the term Marines, but you can use Marine. GCU often gets hold of these ‘announcements’ and makes them known to the artist community on this running list.  You would be wise to never question their decision on these matters.  They have the connections and professional network in place to be ‘in the know’ and if it comes to an uncertainty about something in your submission, GCU will always rule on the safe side, a decline, rather than take a chance on infringement.

Reference this list in the Wiki when in doubt: Intellectual Property and Image Rights!

Teddy bears come up often and there is no doubt that there are many teddy bear collectors out there who would love to buy/give cards with these stuffed animals on them, however;  you need to be absolutely sure you understand how to research acceptable use, and that do your own homework on whether the teddy bear you are using in your photograph/artwork does not infringe on intellectual property … AND it’s your responsibility to provide that information to the review team via the Note to Reviewer. If you don’t, your card may be declined for intellectual property rights. The majority of toys and stuffed plush animals have copyright protection.

Here is a great resourced on Teddy Bears thanks to a fellow GCU artist and bear lover, Tanya (Moonie) at Moonlake Designs

It seems obvious to say that any famous cartoon characters which are owned by Disney, Hanna-Barbera or the like are absolutely off limits. You may not use their likeness, you may not use their names in your keywords, titles, etc. Same applies to Harley Davidson, Volkswagen, and the list goes on and on.

Sample List of Don’ts for Commercial Use on your Greeting Cards …

  • Do Not Photograph or use photographs of: figurines, books, artwork (unless you created the artwork), jigsaw puzzles, or needlepoint created from purchased patterns.
  • Do Not Photograph of use photographs of: recognizable products, product labels, brand names, logos, emblems, hood ornaments and the like.
  • Do Not Photograph or use photographs of: statues, monuments, national parks, bridges, public buildings, etc., as most of these do not allow photographs to be used, except for editorial purposes and/or you need a property release (written permission) to use the images.
  • Do Not Photograph or use photographs of: signs, equipment, vehicles, tools or any product that is recognizable by color, shape, form or design. Specifically, cards that contain references to or images of vehicles cannot be sold on Greeting Card Universe.  This includes the manufacturer’s trade dress rights which bars the use of any silhouette, picture, caricature, or reproduction of the shape or appearance of the manufacturer’s vehicle. Car image cards must be abstract or partial in nature so even the defining body lines and profile can not be identified. This is due to “Trade Dress” laws. Antique/Vintage cars of the 20s and 30s will be considered with a softer eye, such as; Model-T but still must not contain any logos, emblems, make & model names.
  • Do Not Photograph or use photograph of: people which are recognizable without having a signed model release.
  • Do Not Use in ANY form: mottos, insignia, patches, emblems, badges, laws & marks of organizations without knowing for certain the group allows usage.
  • Do Not Use in ANY form: Representations of Armed Forces insignia, medals, campaign ribbons, and all other logos and patches for commercial use is in violation of several published copyright restrictions from both the various branches of the Armed Forces and the Department of Defense and cannot be used for commercial purposes.
  • Angel Policy for rubber stamps:  An Angel Policy clearly defines whether rubber stamps can be used to create products to sell. It will state whether there are any specific restrictions or limitations.  Some companies do not have an Angel Policy – this does not mean that there is a ‘free for all’ when it comes to the use of their stamps.  It means that their stamps are sold for personal use only and not for commercial gain.
  • Do Not Use Verse found on the internet, in books, etc.: By submitting a verse you, the Artist, represent to have complete rights or permission to use/sell the verse. It is your responsibility to insure that the verse does not infringe on the copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, trade dress, right of publicity or other legal right of any third party. Greeting Card Universe reviews cards for verse quality and appropriateness, but does not research nor decide upon legal rights of the verses / quotes Artists’ use.  Any legal implications for verse / quote misuse is the sole responsibility and liability of the submitting artist.  It is your responsibility to insure that you have the proper permission or license for commercial use of the verse / quote in this manner, for resale on paper greeting cards and are using proper accreditation if specified.

Till next week, may you be inspired to be creative!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2013 1:11 pm

    That’s interesting that your article said that there are no use of vehicles on GCU. I’ve seen many cards with trucks and cars. Is it because they were “grandfathered in”??

    • September 23, 2013 1:22 pm

      The vehicle must not be recognizable as a brand or type of actual motor vehicle. All car manufacturers patent and trademark their logos and vehicle designs.


    • September 23, 2013 3:11 pm

      Abigail, actually what I state is this “Car image cards must be abstract or partial in nature so even the defining body lines and profile can not be identified. This is due to “Trade Dress” laws. Antique/Vintage cars of the 20s and 30s will be considered with a softer eye, such as; Model-T but still must not contain any logos, emblems, make & model names.”

      There are many cars/trucks on GCU and I would guess that the majority of them fall within the ‘unrecognizable’ category or they are vintage with no markings showing. If there are those that do not meet the guidelines, you can be assured they will be found and declined before the weeding efforts are done.

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