You would never guess, what is copyrighted these days...

posted on 6th of october, 2010

Copyright issues are one of the most confusing and frustrating among contributors in today's dynamic and profit-driven world. Where ever there is some new architectural structure or a new product or even word of speech - there is always someone who wants and has it protected from unlicensed use. Believe me, it makes you feel that just about ANYTHING can, under circumstances, be copyrighted these days and the vision of a free world and free speech is a daydream. You have to be cautious when you take a step, because it might be someone's property you are stepping on; even more so, you have to be educated when posting a picture you've made, because it might contain elements that are prohibited public exposure (without written consent). Things get even more complicated and strict when money is involved (ie. when you get paid for the piece or when you sell it directly to customers).

We, editors and admins, must constantly update our knowledge base and be up to date with relevant court cases regarding what is a "go-go" and what's a "no-no". During the years we've accumulated quite a list of objects and architecture that we must refuse as RF stock. Not to restrain your creativity so much, we have created the Editorial section, but as everyone knows, it is quite elaborate to get images into that section and to use them as well.

Below I have compiled an index of not EVERY restricted aspect of photography, but rather a list of the most CURIOUS ones, that are not so obvious. Some of them surely will bring out a smile ;)

• The word "Javascript" is copyrighted by SUN and cannot be visible in screenshots. The code itself is not copy, of course.

• Eiffel Tower illuminated at night, this is common knowledge already, but still puzzles many. Daytime captures of it are all fine (not that we have a too few of them already online).

• Not far from that is the Louvre Museum. Everything else is ok, but the two glass pyramids, which cannot be in the picture - entirely or partially.

• The Red Cross emblem. This is relatively new case and, personally, was a jaw-dropper. It has become so common, that you cannot imagine someone might still claim rights upon it. But if you think of it, indeed, the pharmacies are using rather a green version of the cross. More can be read here »

• The Vitruvian Man. Yes, the same Da Vinci's naked man with stretched out arms and legs and within a circle. The work itself appears to be public domain, but direct photographs of it must also be public domain - if you sell them, they are not - hence the restriction.

• Adidas stripes. Apparently Adidas has acquired the rights to all parallel 2, 3, or 4 stripes that appear on clothing and accessories, and footwear. 5 stripes, curiously, is considered not too similar to Adidas 3-stripe trademark and is not an issue. Read more »
Go figure...

• The words World Cup and derivatives. That includes FIFA World Cup 2010, Football World Cup 2010, South Africa 2010... It is neatly laid out in this article »

• Related is the Jabulani football, also by Adidas - http://www.jabulaniball.com

• The word "Champagne" cannot be used in images and in descriptive fields for the image, unless the image itself is of the region Champagne, in France.

• The five Olympic rings, the olympic torch - WIKI link »

• Shapes of cars: Porsche, Ferrari. There is a gray area about other exotic supercars like Lamborghini, Lotus, etc. This means, that a photo will be rejected even though the LOGO of the manufacturer is not visible, but the image is recognizable as one of the two manufacturers' products (can apply to details even).

• Lego figurines (little yellow men), and proprietary parts. Case here »

• Monopoly houses (little red and blue houses).

• John Deere yellow/green machinery. It is accepted as an abstract trademark, hence it should be dealt with like any other trademark - omit from images to be sold as RF. Reference »

• Rubick's Cube. Applies for photography and illustrations. Clear statement »

• Uluru aka Ayer's Rock in Australia.

• The word ASPIRIN on pills, or with a capital "A" spelled in the image. WIKI. Please DO NOT include the keyword "aspirin" to every kind of pill or tablet. It is irrelevant.

• One of the funniest and most curious cases is the one of "Rubber ducks with black sunglasses". The copyright of these ducks (and their devilish friends) belong to Accoutrements, Inc.

Well, and everybody surely knows that: Sydney Opera House, The London Eye, Millenium Bridge, any Calatrava building, The Empire State Building, Filatron Building, China's Olympic "Bird's Nest", intricate tattoos and walls of graffiti (recognizable details as well), and others, are all prohibited in RF stock.

Feel free to add, but with accurate links for reference please.

Happy shooting! :)))

Comments (68)

Posted by Lilialaurent on April 26, 2016
Very informative thank you!
Posted by Demonike on June 23, 2012
• Levi's back pocket design, when it appears in the image - Back Pocket Stitching
Posted by Rolmat on July 13, 2011
Some of these contents may have been already mentioned, but here's a comprehensive list of logos and technologies trademarked by Apple and Microsoft that shouldn't be used in any way. As they are quite extensive lists, please take your time and maybe you'll find some that you wouldn't know of:


Hope it helps :)
Posted by Demonike on April 21, 2011
• The fragrant fir-tree car freshener with the shape of a tree is trademarked. This shape, no matter what text or no text.
• Guangzhou Opera House, beautiful, but protected
• Big X on shoes, belongs to Munich Sports. A relatively new player in the trademark circus.
• Monopoly toy houses - green and red
• Toblerone chocolate triangular shape (so no images with pieces of Toblerone chocolate!)
• The recognizable shape of Absolut bottle
Discoveries Monument in Lisbon, Portugal
• Air Force One presidental airplane - only Editorial
• Everything photographed INSIDE Vatican - including public...(More)
Posted by Rosedarc on January 14, 2011
Very frustrating to see that despite this informed article quite a few RF pictures of Uluru have recently slipped through the net!
Posted by Andreidorian on November 11, 2010
o ya right, my bad...
Posted by Bowied on November 06, 2010
Wonderful!!! You a good and talented blogger I like your article, thanks for you job)))
Posted by Shopartgallerycom on November 04, 2010
Great article!
Posted by Demonike on November 04, 2010
Andrei, if you look closely, you notice that those are sold under the Editorial license only.
Posted by Szczepko on November 04, 2010

Thank you for the info! Especially Uluru!
Posted by Andreidorian on November 04, 2010
Calatrava? there are 3 pages of photography only here in Dreamstime.
Posted by Sanimir on October 31, 2010
Thank you.
Best regards
Posted by Davulcu on October 31, 2010
Nice essay about copyrights . Thank you very much
Posted by Demonike on October 27, 2010
Thank you, Derek. I might have used copyright, trademarked and intellectual property interchangeably, for what I apologize, if I misused the terms. Either this or that, all these listed "phenomena" are to be refused as RF stock images, as per instructions from our superiors.
Regarding the billboard example - you can take the picture, probably without being sued by that act alone, but what is certain, is that you cannot sell this image of billboard here on microstock.
Posted by Dprogers on October 27, 2010
I often see articles like this and while there are aspects of truth, there are simplifications. Uluru is covered by the Cultural and Biodiversity Act not any Intellectual Property Rights Acts. I know that because it says so on the back of the ticket for entry to the park. More to the point this has been the subject of challenge by very prominent artists and photographers. Copyright is decided by the Attorney General's Department not a national parks body. as for the three stripes, well good luck with that against the military uniforms. Copyright is there to protect the works of artists but there are things it cannot protect and just because something is copyright doesn't mean the copyright creator can make up any rules they like. If their image is on a billboard and I take a shot of that billboard in a landscape, that does not necessarily infringe their copyright. And don't confuse copyright with registered trademarks with unregistered trademarks.

As always seek legal advice but be careful...(More)
Posted by Demonike on October 26, 2010
Carolyn, do not worry too much about the keywords - nobody will forcibly begin to remove them. It is the same case as with some common misspellings - spell checker makes them red, but it helps people find your stuff. Until further notice, word champagne should be removed from the image itself.
Posted by Cmarshall717 on October 25, 2010
I wonder how many people out there who are just looking for an image to use for New Year's invitations, flyers, etc. would know that. I'm talking about "Mom and Pop", students, and regular folks who dont' deal with the business side of RF. Had I not read this, I wouldn't. And I don't think I would have looked for sparkling wine. It's really sad that our world has come to this.
Posted by Demonike on October 25, 2010
A "glass of sparkling wine" would be politically correct :)
More important than keywords is that the word CHAMPAGNE would not be visible in any of your photos or illustrations, though. This would be a sure refusal.
Posted by Cmarshall717 on October 25, 2010
"Champagne" surprised me, too. Does that mean that you can no longer have a "glass of champagne" as an image? How would you describe the beverage? I know it sounds silly, but gosh there are so many levels of everyday products and conversation that seem to be affected.
Posted by Luissantos84 on October 23, 2010
I have a few graffitis in a few agencies including top ones like FT.. Champagne is another stuff that is all around at shutter and so on.. This is a matter that's far to be fair and really done in all agencies.. I can tell a few landmarks also in Lisbon that now have supposed "copyright" but they are approving them everyday, one day they pick other not..
Posted by Rolmat on October 21, 2010
Here is a great source for everyone regarding trademarks, just in case.
Far from being a comprehensive and updated tool, it's a very good tool for everyone to search for what is and what is not trademarked. Specially before submissions :

Posted by Demonike on October 21, 2010
I'll say once again, that my list here is not meant to be a comprehensive resource for all things copyrighted. Only the ones that are funny / surprising / not obvious. Most of the statues are accepted, artistic interpretations are mostly refused and most paintings are refused. But do not rush to "shoot-a-lot" your nearest statue - they are too specific for stock and do not sell at all. It is actually quite complicated to take a picture of a public statue, in ways both meaningful and interesting, and useful. Rule of thumb is - the newer the memorial, the bigger is the chance that it might be protected.
Posted by Simplyphotosnc on October 20, 2010
Good info for sure. How about statues, sculptures, paintings, etc. Can these works be sold as editorial, or are the strictly forbidden?
Posted by Demonike on October 20, 2010
The bottom line is - we cannot offer those images (objects) for sale under the RF license, only editorial.
Posted by Arne9001 on October 20, 2010
Well, without trying to be too smart: most of the examples cited in the article do not concern copyrights but trademarks. The implications are different (e.g. trademarks are violated if used to identify goods or services and under some other circumstances, for a copyright infringement the sole reproduction of an image might be sufficient).
Posted by Demonike on October 19, 2010
Most of them are Editorial. Those that are not, have slipped through and will be Editorial soon enough :)
Posted by Palo2008 on October 19, 2010
If you type vitruvian man into the search engines input, you get 95 images. Most of them actually show the vitruvian man. So how is it possible, if it is copyrighted?
Posted by Forsterforest on October 18, 2010
Yes, I just knew they dont't belong single stripe
Posted by Demonike on October 18, 2010
To be absolutely clear - Adidas issue concers 2, 3 and 4 stripes only.
Posted by Forsterforest on October 18, 2010
Thank you! Didn't knew about 5th+ stripes in Adidas.
Hope red tomato and green apple on white will not attract companies attention.

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Comments (68)

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Photo credits: Ali Mazraie Shadi, Alfonso De Stefano, Yali Shi, Uros Ravbar.

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I am a graphic designer, webmaster, photographer. Live in Estonia. 3 kids. Mac-person. Nikon-person. Initially gave my images for free back in 2003. Then discovered that some people would actually be willing to pay for my random photo experiments. Found Dreamstime, had lots to say in the forums and Serban invited me into their family :) • I am totally self taught. Through trial and error. Mostly latter :) • What makes an ideal microstock photo? I think it is broad usability. Solely. • I have studio experience, but am not so active lately. Mostly shoot events, family, object... [Read more]

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