Keep Your Website and Designs Legal
Crafting stunning designs and functional websites can be challenging, regardless of whether you’re using Adobe Photoshop or Flash or another similar program. But creating something that is visually appealing is not the only thing you should be concerned about. You need to also make sure that your website and designs are legal. Here are some things you will want to remember.
You Are Responsible
Whether you are the designer or whether you are simply using what you purchased, you should always consider yourself responsible for any legal issues that crop up. Bit Law points out that in most cases, the lawsuit will be filed on whoever is found involved. Actual lawsuits in the United States and most other Western countries require that service be made in person. Email service does not exist for court cases, though informal notices and cease and desist letters may be sent online. But as a general rule, it is best to assume that you are the one who is responsible unless you have clear documentation that proves someone else is.
Each Component Needs to be Legal
Another common mistake that designers make is assuming that so long as the major part of the design is legally obtained that the smaller pieces don’t matter. However, Code points out that every single part of the design must be legally obtained. If you decide to use butterflies in part of the design and cut out part of a butterfly from another picture that you did not have the right to use, you could still get in trouble legally. Even if you only intend to use the butterfly as a placeholder or alter it, it will still generally fall into the infringement category. You could always assume that you won’t get caught, but identification technology is improving and becoming more and more accessible to artists and designers.
You also need to make sure that you know the rights available to images you are working with. This becomes even more important if you try to sell your work. The ability to use an image commercially does not necessarily give you the right to modify it or even crop it. If you purchase an image or a pattern from a stock or licensing program, make sure that you save both the receipt and the terms. This way, if problems crop up, you can refer back to your agreement. If you did nothing wrong and can demonstrate that you used it properly, you can often get the suit either thrown out or move it on to the other offending party.
If you are purchasing a design through a place like Designhill, you will want to discuss with them the rights used in the images and designs created through them. Such businesses often provide resources. Original created works and additional licenses offer further protection. If you are the designer, you should make a checklist of each component used in your design. Go through and check to see whether you have the necessary rights. This way you can sell or use your designs with confidence.
Avoid Common Red Flags
Be particularly cautious about using anything that even resembles trademarked images. Getting an image or phrase trademarked provides more protection than just the precise image or phrase. Corbin Ball Associates states images or sayings that are so closely patterned after trademark images that they could confuse buyers will also run afoul of intellectual property laws. The actual standard arises whenever it is such that the average buyer would be likely to assume that the product or image is associated with the other trademarked image.
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid trademarked images and other brands unless you have the necessary permissions. Even if you aren’t doing a similar design, even referencing them could cause problems if the other business sees it as casting the business in a negative light. All of this returns to the context in which the element is used. Showing a pair of Nike tennis shoes having flattened soles compared to another brand whose soles make the runner fly would probably fall into the potentially defamatory category. It wouldn’t be protected as a review, nor would it qualify for fair use.
Whether you create the design yourself or purchase components or buy the entire design from a service like Designhill, you need to make sure that it is legal. You should always assume that the buck stops with you unless you have iron clad documentation that someone else is responsible. In your own design work and purchases, you must make sure that each component is legal. Just because it isn’t the main focus doesn’t mean you can use it however you want. You should also avoid the other common red flags such as mimicking trademarked images and slogans or using them in a fashion that might be negatively interpreted.
Through these easy to understand tips, you will be able to better protect yourself.