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Logo design & copyright

How copyright effects your logo. Some basic info and advice.

Click here. Copyright is the literal translation of ‘right to copy’. Copyright protects developers of creative works such as books, articles, music, movies, photography, artwork and even sounds from any unauthorized copying, reproduction or re-distribution of their work. On the internet, it should protect you from blog content scraping and people copying logos (but experience has shown that this assumed ‘protection’ is often ignored by unscrupulous webmasters who use logo raiding & scraping to populate their sites with content).

Copyright protection is automatic upon creation of any art mentioned previously (but can be registered with the government for an official sanction). In the context of logo design, copyright would protect any drawings, figures, and unique designs incorporated into your overall corporate logo. Copyright is not as absolute as trademark protection (artwork can be similar without infringement). In terms of working with The Logo Factory on developing your new logo, we transfer copyright of final artwork with all our logo design packages.

The Poor Man’s Copyright

You may have heard about the so-called Poor Man’s Copyright, that is, using the US Post Office as a method of copyrighting your artwork, and I suppose in context, your spanking new company logo. It often pops up on design forums as designers advise each other on methods (short of hiring a lawyer) of protecting this or that artwork.

Here’s how a poor man’s copyright is supposed to work – you take your artwork, logo or written piece, place it in a sealed envelope and mail it to yourself, registered mail. The thought behind the process is that the US Post Office (as an official representative of the feds – itself questionable) has now ‘date stamped’ your artwork, proving once and for all the date that you’re claiming copyright. You can then put this unopened letter in a safe place, only to be opened as an ‘ah-ha’ moment in a court battle with the unscrupulous hack who’s now laying claim to your work. Must admit, it appears pretty sound. Trouble is, it probably won’t work, as your legal opponent will be able to prove quite readily in court that a poor man’s copyright can be faked (thus rendering it’s legal value moot).


Breathtakingly simple actually – you can send a registered letter to yourself in an unsealed envelope, and then place whatever you want in the envelope and then seal it. Any lawyer worth their salt could argue this in court and if that’s all you got, your ownership rights are sunk. It’s highly unlikely that any judge would be willing to accept this as evidence of anything other than your ability to send a letter to your home address. Here’s what the US Copyright Office has to say on the matter in their series of copyright FAQs –

I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

Guess that settles that.

Growing your copyrights

There are other methods of proving copyright and more importantly date of claim – publication in a dated periodical (newspaper, magazine, etc) for example – and every use of your artwork creates additional ownership rights and the ability to prove when you created the artwork (ie: before the person who ripped it). You can also register your artwork with the USPTO.

As a footnote, I’m not a lawyer, so the advice upstairs is worth exactly what you paid for it.

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