Although, of course, calendars show our years beginning January 1st, it’s hard to appreciate the new year when everything seems the same as the end of the old year: Still winter; everything dead and cold.
Then along comes spring: a time of renewal and rejuvenation, when flowers bloom, trees leaf; birds start singing and bugs start biting. The world finally comes back alive.
Whether because everything seems fresh and new, or due to religious emphasis on resurrection this time of year — or maybe just the reminder that summer is coming and it’ll be harder to hide the extra winter padding — a lot of people wish to reinvent themselves in spring.
For companies, this can translate into new stationery, new logo, perhaps a new website or literature. After all, what better time than spring to arise like a phoenix from winter’s ashes?
But few want to go to their designers empty-handed. Research must be done, decisions made. You want to go into that meeting knowing what you want. So, to Google you go!
Google image search is great for seeing what’s out there, getting a feel for the market and available imagery. But there’s something important not to overlook when doing this:
Unfortunately, there’s a perception that because it’s freely available online it’s also free to use. This is a dangerously false idea. A great example of how dangerous — and how false — is the Cook’s Source fiasco of November 2010.
The Cliff’s Notes version of the story is that the editor of a low-circulation magazine found an article online and used it in her magazine, without payment or attribution. When the original author confronted her, the editor contended that things found on the Internet are considered “public domain.”
When the Internet heard about that, the Internet took it upon itself to set her straight. Cook’s Source eventually had to shut down.
The story about the actor-turned-serial plagiarist is here, if you’ve wisely abstained from reading about celebrity shenanigans and don’t already know about him. We’ll leave it at that out of concern we’ll damage our eyes from rolling them too hard.
People are used to thinking of plagiarism in terms of written work, but it goes way beyond that. Logos are jacked with such regularity that there are websites devoted to tracking the theft, such as LogoThief.com.
Included among these stories are the ones about shady “graphic artists” who lift the work of others to pad their own portfolios.
Live by the Google, Die by the Google
Well, naturally, you can trust us, but here are some tips to help avoid paying for plagiarism.
- Know the provenance. Images from reputable sources like iStockPhoto.com or Shutterstock.com are properly licensed for use — when paid for.
- There are some places where free images can be obtained, but many of these operate under restrictions such as Creative Commons Licensing. If you are selecting images for use, be sure to verify that the restrictions don’t preclude use of the image.
- If you have any doubts, turn the shady designer’s weapon against them and do a Google image search. Since it’s now possible to drop an image into the browser and search the image, you can easily detect if your new logo is too similar to someone else’s.
- If you do end up grabbing something from your Google image search — which we do not recommend doing — the very least you can do is include an attribution that links back to the source. If possible, actually ask the creator if they’re okay with the image use.
These tips are far from comprehensive, and copyright law is notoriously dense and confusing. Also, we are not lawyers. But the above points should still be useful for keeping on the Internet’s — and the law’s — good side.
Rigney Graphics is a Pasadena graphic arts company that can help you create an impact with design and marketing solutions for print and web.