An open letter about copying logos.
Sam, I’d probably like you if we met over beers, or perhaps a plate of chicken wings at your pizza parlor. Could even make the trip too, as your town is only a few hours from our studio. Alas Sam, our friendship never had much of a chance, and it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever break bread now. You see Sam, like you, we run a small business. It’s sometimes a struggle making ends meet, covering payroll, paying our bills, keeping our software and hardware up to date. We don’t make a lot of profit, but we keep at it, mostly because we love what we do.
Just like you probably love what you do. Making pizza and chicken wings. Taking as much pride in your craft, as we do in ours.
In these tough economic times, it’s sometimes difficult getting people to fork out for their logo design, just as I’m sure it is getting people to fork out for their pizzas, beers, wings and that delicious home-made bread you talk about so enthusiastically on your website. If ever we’re down around your neck of the woods, we might have stopped by and sampled some of your fares. I’m a big fan of chicken wings (if my waistline is any indication, perhaps too much) and love washing them down which a pitcher of draft. We’d probably have given the server who looked after us a healthy tip, cause we’re like that. We get it. Some of our designers have worked as waiters. My wife worked at one of those pizza chains when she was a teenager, so we understand that tips are really important. It might have been cool, Sam. But that was before you pinched some artwork off the internet. Our work.
And tried to turn it into your logo.
I understand how this happened Sam. That logo is in the number one or two spot when you search for the keywords pizza and logo on Google. Does pretty well for “pizzeria logo” too. Bottom line, it’s a decent design and it’s really easy to find. That didn’t happen by accident Sam. Far from it. We had to write some nice copy about pizza logos and feature some examples from our portfolio on one of our web pages. We even gave some tips on how to design a logo for a pizza restaurant. Hopefully, people who were looking for design firms, especially those that were good at designing pizza logos, might find our site when using their favorite search engine. Maybe even hire us to design a logo for their restaurant. And if they wanted to try designing one themselves, we gave a few tips that might help.
Here’s the thing Sam. Our graphic design portfolio and website is our advertising, very similar to the website you’re building for your pizza parlor. And like the mailers you send to people in your neighborhood, hoping that they’ll order pizza and wings by phone. Or visit your fine establishment when they want to dine out. Trouble is Sam, when you wanted to add a logo to your website and mailers, you decided to nick the design you liked so much right off our website. You, or some designer you hired, took the image, removed the name of the client we originally designed the logo for, and put in your restaurant’s name. Pretty badly too Sam, because this design wasn’t built for the name of your restaurant, it was built for the original client’s name. But that’s neither here nor there. This letter isn’t about good or bad logo design.
It’s about intellectual property.
See Sam, I didn’t think I’d have to tell you this. I thought you’d understand, being a small business owner like myself, that our companies represent a way of making a living to the people who work for us. Our designers and admin staff. Just like your servers and chefs. Our logos and design work are just like your pizza and chicken wings Sam. You know, product. The things we sell to keep the lights on, the doors open and the paychecks signed. Or in your case, the doors to your pizza pub restaurant open, your wait staff smiling and your pizza ovens nice and hot.
Maybe we’re too expensive for your budget Sam, and that’s okay. Just like your pizza may be more expensive than the Domino’s and Pizza Pizza chains across the street from your shop. You’ll tell your customers that your pizzas and wings are more expensive because they’re better than those other guys. Better, fresher ingredients. Home made pie crust. Hand mixed sauces. That’s kind of our position on our pricing too, Sam. We only present custom work, no templates or clip art here, and we have to price our design services in order to maintain that level of quality. We try to have great customer service and warm, knowledgeable bodies answering phones when clients need help with their logos. There are budget logo design services to be sure, and you’re welcome to use those guys too.
Free market and all that.
Just like the people in your area are welcome to buy their wings and pizzas from those large chains that don’t take as much pride in their menu items as you do. You have breaded shrimps too? That’s awesome.
But here’s the thing Sam. When you decided that we were too rich for your tastes, or your budget, you didn’t go to the other, cheaper guys. You just took our artwork, property that belongs to someone else, and made it yours. You didn’t pay for it. You didn’t even ask. It would be like me breaking into your restaurant and taking your pizza (I’m partial to pepperoni, mushroom and pineapple) without asking you, because I thought you were charging too much. Or taking your pepperoni, mushrooms, pineapples and home made pie dough, right out of your fridge, so that I could try and make my own pizza. Pizza that, hopefully, would taste just like yours. You might think artwork on the internet is different Sam, but it’s not really. You’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you. And using it for your own benefit. Without asking the rightful owner, or the creator, if they’re okay with you using it.
Judging by the way your website is set up (5.7 MBs for your about page is a bit heavy Sam) you may be new to the internet and not know this. While it’s cool to find all sorts of stuff, logo design examples let’s say, the internet is also a weird place.
A very weird place indeed.
I’ve never heard of your pizza parlor, nor did I know about your new website. Trouble is, someone from your neighborhood, perhaps even a customer of yours, knows about us. They seem to be quite familiar with our site too, being able to find a very old contact form that’s not easy to find on our new site. I think they might be a graphic designer Sam, because they were really, really unhappy to see our client’s logo being used to promote your restaurant. So unhappy that they took some time out of their busy day to tell us. And just like you used the internet search machine to find examples of pizza logos, we used the internet search machine to find you. Now, whether you really want to or not, you’re going to have to have a new logo designed. You won’t hire us because after all this, you probably think I’m not a very nice person. That bad blood is sad really, because we didn’t do anything wrong. Other than advertise our services on the internet. Just like you advertise your pizzas and wings on the internet. But you’re going to have to hire somebody I suppose. Here’s a few tips on selecting a logo designer. And if you’ve printed our work on business cards, letterheads or heaven forbid, your menus, it’s going to cost a lot more than the couple of hundred bucks you saved by not hiring us. The sad footnote to this is that you’ve probably lost a customer too. Remember the designer that told us about this little incident? Apparently, they don’t want to support a business that appears to think so little about theirs.
The big chains across the street are cheaper too.
I want to keep this quiet Sam, because I’m sure you’re a nice guy who may not have understood that this kind of thing is wrong. Many people seem to think that once something is on the internet, it’s available for use by anyone. It isn’t.
“Many people seem to think that once something is on the internet, it’s available for use by anyone. It isn’t.”
There’s this little wrinkle to that called copyright. Trademark works too. Some may feel that pinching artwork off the internet is just like downloading MP3s or movies via a file-sharing network. It’s not. MP3s and bootleg movies are downloaded into a private stash on a hard drive that no-one else sees. While it’s still very illegal, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get caught. By their nature, logos are very, very public. That’s the point in the first place. And when you use a logo how it’s supposed to be used, plastered over your advertising, you run a very real risk of the owner finding out. In many different and wondrous ways. If they don’t find it themselves, it could come down to some graphic designer who reads a website, or a logo design blog like this one, dropping into your shop for an undoubtedly wonderful slice of pizza. And then half the internet will be raging about yet another example of someone knocking off someone else’s design work. Funny thing, I wrote about that kind of thing just a few days ago. They’re called Twitter Storms and they can get really, really nasty. That won’t happen this time Sam, because I’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure the search engine machines don’t connect this post with your restaurant. See, I just wanted you to stop using our work. And to leave our client’s logo alone. And who knows. Maybe if the Mrs. and I ever plan a road trip down your way, we’ll drop in for a slice or two.
Or maybe some of those lovely looking shrimps.
The preceding was based on an actual event. Sam is not the actual name of the restaurant owner addressed. So it doesn’t get picked up by search engines, we’ve left the name of his restaurant out of the article too. Also should mention that after being contacted, the logo was removed from Sam’s website.