Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Can they use those logos?

Image from Jon Corzine campaign adI was having a burger the other day, and I looked up at the TV above the restaurant’s bar. It was playing a campaign ad for Jon Corzine.

That’s the big New Jersey gubernatorial campaign: incumbent Jon Corzine is being challenge by sleazebucket Chris Christie, and both sides are running hugely negative attack campaigns — politics as even more disgusting than usual. Several of Governor Corzine’s ads use quotes from the newspapers to blast Mr Christie; there’s an example over there on the right, from the ad I saw (click to enlarge).

Earlier in the ad, they took other New York Times quotes, simply tagging them as being from the Times. But for this one, they used the logo. Did they get permission for that? I doubt it. I’m not a lawyer, but I also doubt that it’s covered by fair use.[1]

It’s unlikely, of course, that the Times would sue Mr Corzine for it, but that fact doesn’t make the use proper.

Slide full of logosLots of people who put together business presentations like to stick in a slide or two with company logos all over them, to represent the companies that use the technology or products or services described, who belong to the subject organization, or whatever. There’s an example on the right (click it to go the page whence it came, as long as the page continues to exist).

Again, they almost always do not have permission to use the logos. Such permission isn’t given lightly, at least not by big companies, and it’s a very different thing to use the company’s name, and to use its logo. IBM, for instance, is very picky about the use of the logo, requiring it to be rendered just so, in the right size, with the right colours, against the right background, and so on. Even employees have to apply for permission to use it except in certain pre-approved manners (as with company-distributed PowerPoint templates).

I’ve always refused to use slides like that — sometimes to the scoffing of my colleagues, who preferred the snazzier, logo-filled slide to my mundane list of names.

Am I just being too much of a good Do-Bee? I don’t think so. I think companies have a right not to have their logos used in someone’s advertising, sales pitches, or even technical presentations.

[1] This, on the other hand, is.


Nathaniel said...

Yes, you're too much of a Do-bee. How are we ever going to get stupid intellectual property laws to change if we keep obeying them?

The Ridger, FCD said...

Since when is a logo part of the fight against intellectual property?

Barry Leiba said...

Indeed; I'm all for revisiting most of the IP-related laws in the light of current technology — and of eliminating the stupid ones — but I don't see logos as something that need changes.

Your logo is your image, and I think you have a right not to allow it to be used for advertising or other use of which you don't approve. Allowing for fair use, of course, which means it can be parodied, and such.

Nathaniel said...

Well, to put it in perspective: I don't actually believe in private property for physical objects, either, so the idea of ownership of a pattern of bits forming an image is even more absurd to me.

Barry Leiba said...

May I have your car?

Nathaniel said...

Sure, particularly if I can have yours. But seriously, it doesn't take much to get me to give most things away -- merely as rational a process as I can manage of evaluating whether you need it more than I do. (And of course now perhaps you're beginning to understand why my career as a millionaire was so short!)