Top commonly overlooked copyrights

We live in a world full of copyrights and protected brands. We know how we need to avoid, remove and mask copyrights in our commercial license photo submissions at dreamstime. An image cannot be used under the commercial licence if it has a copyright protected mark, monument, logo, design or text etc. However there are some copyrights that are easily missed and appear in commercial image submissions. These can be easily fixed before submission, resulting in higher acceptance rate. Also you can avoid having your images being moved to editorial section once you are aware of these copyrights.

Copyright Highlight

After reading this blog, you will be able to:

1. Identify commonly missed copyrights.

2. Remove or remedy copyright issues in your images.

3. Avoid common copyright refusals.

4. Avoid your commercial images being moved to editorial section.

Command key on apple keyboard

The Apple command key, a commonly overlooked copyright.

So let’s check out the commonly missed copyrights:

Mobile logos and “shot using” stamps: Yes we love our phones and love to flaunt the brands, but keeping the logo and “shot using” branding inside the image is not a good idea for either commercial or Editorial sections. Such images are always refused. So please go to your camera options and turn them off.

Apple command key symbol: While shots involving office and work desks are cool to look at with a mac, the apple command key logo is a copyright and needs to be masked or removed before submission. The word “command” however is ok.

Windows key logo: Similarly, Microsoft holds the copyright to windows logo on windows keyboards. Hence, the windows logo needs to be removed.

Adidas lines: two, three or four equidistant lines or stripes on clothing and sporting goods are also copyright. So, those lines on the sides of socks, shoes, t-shirts, hoodies and lounge pants need masking. Also any adidas or other shoe designs that show the brand need to be made generic by masking out the design attributes. Exercise equipment and other things by Adidas need to be addressed in a similar way. The only exception is when you are shooting sports events for editorial section.

Registered website domains: Simple sounding domains are usually registered as they command a hefty premium. Names like mywebsite, yourwebsite, email dot com etc. are all registered. It’s much better to just use generic text like “your website here” instead.

Barcodes and QR: A lot of templates, business cards and banners feature QR codes, similarly a lot of products carry a bar code. If it translates into something readable, it’s copyright, If it's just a dummy, its ok.

Car logos and licence plates: Cars are registered to people or organisations and it’s a good idea to mask this personal information out. Similarly, car logos are the property of their brand owners.

Bank notes in frontal view: The world is not a nice place when it comes to copying currency and copied currency is used to peddle a lot of crime. In order to curb someone from freely using stock photos for printing currency, bank notes in front and back flat view are not accepted. You can have something covering them partially, like coins & other objects etc.

US treasury forms: They contain a number of things that are copyrighted so it’s just better to avoid them altogether.

Body tattoos that are complex (not any tattoo): regular, simple and common tattoos like standard tribal art is ok, complex tattoos that seem like a work of art require one to attach a PR for the tattoo that needs to be signed by the tattoo artist.

Starbucks: Starbucks is adamant that their logos and trademarks are not to be used, even in the editorial section. Simply don’t upload images that contain it

Red plus sign: The simple red plus sign on white background is copyright of The Red Cross. Deep oranges or color tones closer to red are best avoided. If however the background is blue, green or other solid color, it is ok.

Lego men: Lego figures and characters are copyright and while it’s tempting to depict a scene made with lego action figures, they cannot be accepted due to copyright protection.

I hope you find these insights helpful in avoiding refusals and increasing your chances of getting more of your images into the commercial section. Do leave your kind comments.

All brands mentioned are copyright of their respective owners.

Photo credits: Dimarik16, Pixelrobot.

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August 15, 2019


Thanks for sharing, this is very helpful!

July 29, 2019


Great detailed list, Thank you for parsing out the details and the 'why's'.  Currency was always one I had wondered about, and the comments on Starbucks is just surprising.  Very helpful post.

July 29, 2019


In posting some outdoor scenes, I've often forgotten about the brand logos on tents, backpacks, camping chairs, coolers, etc. The other big area I've learned to watch for in my genre of shooting is brand labels on dog collars and ID tags! They are often tiny, but the reviewers are obviously watching in order to protect us from copy write infringement. Thanks for bringing up all those we might forget about! William

July 27, 2019


Very interesting and useful!

July 26, 2019


 Hello,npeople often use graphics without an extended license. Then what?

July 26, 2019


Good blog. This kind of thing needs to be mentioned more.

July 26, 2019


Thanks for sharing...Its really helpful !!!

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