Tip of the week: Copyrights that should never be seen

Copyright is a legal right, existing in many countries, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others. (Source: Wikipedia)

Many of you are already aware of the meaning and importance of copyright for pictures or illustrations, and try to avoid having your work refused for copyright reasons.

There are a lot of copyright protected items all around the world. Probably the most common copyright on images are Apple’s trademark Command symbol or the Windows logo on a keyboard. Sports shoes are another item that we sometimes tend to ignore. Whenever we shoot pictures of a model in a studio, a gym or outdoors, we need to pay attention to the potential trademarks present on clothes or shoes. It’s worth taking into account that 2, 3, or 4 lines on an outfit represent an Adidas trademark. Same goes for the Nike, Asics or Puma logo and so on.

Feminine home office desk Business Hero header social media

Some random logo visible on a crane or a building in an urban landscape photography, the tyre producer’s name on a car image, a conspicuous house number from a picturesque medieval street, the manufacturer’s logo on the models’s eyeglasses frame or on his/her watch, all of these are copyright protected. But it can easily remove in post-processing, avoid right from the start, when actually taking the photo or upload it as Editorial image (only for images that have editorial value).

London skyline

There are however certain subjects not even suitable to be sold in the Editorial section:

- The Starbucks logo, coffee shop or anything related

- The Tristan Eaton murals

- The Atomium landmark in Brussels

- The Crazy Horse Memorial (a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, Custer County, South Dakota, United States)

- The Ampelman (the symbol shown on pedestrian signals in Germany)

- The Casa Mila, La Pedrera (by Antonio Gaudi, in Barcelona)

- The Hearst Castle (National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark mansion located on the Central Coast of California)

- The Blenheim Palace interior (a monumental country house in Blenheim, Oxfordshire, England)

- The Donau-Auen National Park ( a park in Vienna and Lower Austria)

- Little Trees (Wunderbaum) - those disposable air fresheners shaped like a stylized evergreen tree

- Smile on a Stick (copyright protected by the company)

- The US Million Dollar Bill by Gene Dowdie

- The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM) in Marseille, France

- Hobbiton, the hobbit houses from the movie set (in New Zealand)

- The Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin Chapel (a 15th-century chapel located in the village ofRoslin,Midlothian, Scotland)

- The Castel Meur (a house on thePointe du Château, France)

In order to avoid having our pictures refused, we need to verify if the photographed subject is copyright-protected or not. We could thus find out that some of the greatest world architects (Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Oscar Niemeyer, Santiago Calatrava and so on) have their works protected, that we are not allowed to sell royalty free images shot from inside the famous Notre Dame in Paris or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or that the subway stations’ logos around the world are also copyright protected. Or that the word famous Haribo gummy bears, Candy hearts with text, a red cross on white background, UK banknotes, Canadian coins, Me to You Teddy bear, are also protected.

As well as making inquiries on the photographed subjects, the basic rule for promptly tracking down a possible trademark is to thoroughly examine the image at 100% before uploading it.

Happy shooting and many sales!

Photo credits: Bjorn Hovdal, Liligraphie.

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December 04, 2018


@ Williamwise1 Sometimes we learn about copyrights the hard way. Always is better double-check our images before upload them. Thank you for your comment!

December 03, 2018


I had never even thought to look for the copyrighted logos on the collars and tags of dogs I was shooting until one was rejected by DT. It took me a minute to find why it was rejected. Now I remember to check those all the time before submitting my pet photos. Thanks for the reminder! William

November 29, 2018


@ Mani33 You're right! Thank you!

November 29, 2018


Very true! Although the list of prohibited subjects even for editorial is much more than that, but on each case photographers have to search about the copyrights. Thanks for the reminder

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