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 -

• 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 benjamingreen on October 18, 2010
Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, England is another place you need a permit if you wish to sell your pics commercially.... as I found out when visiting at the weekend. I did take some pics, but mainly family, so won't be uploading any - unless I apply for a retrospective permit.

But very strange how you can restrict or copyright images of nature... I'm sure there's some hotshot lawyer who'd like to take that on one day...
Posted by Demonike on October 18, 2010
The last comment is not entirely true - copyright laws are useful - take our own work for example, we do not want our work used without permission and commission. Architecture and designer products are to be treated the same way. In most cases law is genuinely used to PROTECT.
In the case of the Uluru for example, the natives feel their sacred heritage is abused and commercialized.
Citing your first sentence, it would seem as well that photographers are out to make a living off of someone elses efforts (ie take pictures of art or some building and trying to make our own money out of it). :)
There are always two sides of every coin.
Posted by Twildlife on October 17, 2010
The whole world is going insane, seems that everyone is out to make a living off someone elses efforts. At least my specialty, wildlife, isn't copyrighted, yet! OOPS!! Don't want to give the idiots any ideas.
Posted by Ttempleman on October 13, 2010
Nearly all images of the Las Vegas Strip are also not eligible for RF usage. The hotels guard their property rights very tightly.
Posted by Adpower99 on October 13, 2010
Very interesting article! And no, I didn't know the Empire State Building was prohibited. Why is that? According to the U.S. Patent Office, buildings built before 1990 can't be copyrighted. What makes that one special?
Posted by I4lcocl2 on October 13, 2010
Regarding the National Trust restrictions in the UK: There are at least 12 images of Waddeston manor on here which is NI owned. So how does this reconcile with what is and isnt allowed?

As an aside the NI owns the Dover cliffs site i believe.......does this mean no more white cliffs of dover then?
Posted by Margaretanne on October 12, 2010
The National Trust of Great Britain does not allow pictures of it's properties (Stately Houses, gardens or other properties it owns eg. coastline, Country Parks ) to be published for sale. It owns more than 300 properties so you would have to visit their web site for more details. They all have a copyright. Many of them are Landmark properties which tourists would visit. There is a comprehensive list of world wide examples on the SS site... :)
Posted by Cristalloid on October 12, 2010
Very interesting and useful information! Thanks to Demonike!

Suggestion: I think every contributor was happy to find a list (or downloadable excel-table) of unusual copyrighted items in the contributor-FAQs; in this context I would define everything as "unusual" that is not a logo or brand name but is nevertheless copyrighted. Maybe DT could implement such a list that gets updated from time to time?
Posted by Velo on October 11, 2010
Lulworth Cove in Dorset England is also an area where photography and painting etc cannot be published without permission as it is copyrighted.
Posted by Jmphoto on October 11, 2010
Thank you for the useful information - always amazed at what can and can't be used in RF stock!
Posted by Miele on October 11, 2010
Thanks for info!
Posted by Onime on October 10, 2010
Interesting article. i'll check your info.
Posted by Demonike on October 10, 2010
Margaret, please provide a source for this information as well as a few examples. Folks not familiar with the UK might not know what to watch out for.
Thank you all for your input! And let's not make it just a list of all possible things that are copyrighted (we have lots more on account ourselves, and discussed in our forums), but rather keep it to those instances that are a bit unexpected / curious.
Posted by Margaretanne on October 10, 2010
National Trust properties in the UK :)
Posted by Bluerabbit on October 09, 2010
At one time, some were considering restricting photography in US national parks and on other public lands. Fortunately, saner minds prevailed (at least for the time being--we must remain vigilant). If someone questions you on public lands (it happens), show them a copy of this
(If you are arranging a formal shoot, you may need a permit.)
Posted by Rzs on October 09, 2010
Great info! It's good to remind and learn other not so obvious copyrighted stuff.
Posted by Vic36 on October 09, 2010
Thanks for the article. It would be good to have a copyright section at Dreamstime, where other contributors can elaborate on what you've put together.

PS: and thanks for the comment about USSR in your profile, it made me nostalgic :)
Posted by Razvanjp on October 09, 2010
Nothing about high speed trains of the world.I know that images of Japanese Shinkansen are protected by copyrights.I am not sure how is the situation in case of French TGV ?
Posted by Iwhitwo on October 08, 2010
Great info, thanks!
Posted by Czbalazs on October 08, 2010
Very useful informations, thank you!
Posted by Kittycat on October 08, 2010
Thank you for all the information. Just unreal. :)
Posted by smartview27 on October 08, 2010
Thank you for your information!
Posted by Nicku on October 08, 2010
Tanks for information.... very helpful. In 10 years even the humans will have copyright. All the rights will belong to God administrated by the pope.... :) just kidding.....
Posted by Roberto1977 on October 08, 2010
Very interesting blog! Thank you.
Posted by Lesscholz on October 07, 2010
Opera House in Sydney is also a no-no, although Australian law does not protect the architectural appearance of buildings (and this one, in addition, is a public building). As usual, this is the case of bullies getting their way - because getting into argument with them is not economical. Welcome to the brave new world.
Posted by Inganielsen on October 07, 2010
aaahhh :D this is so cool :D
Posted by Maigi on October 07, 2010
Great article. Thanks!

You should add Akiyoshi's illusions
Posted by Furo_felix on October 07, 2010
I have known some of them but the shape of the cars that are trademarked surprised me .
Posted by Laurasinelle on October 07, 2010
Thanks for this update. Its very important to know this things!
Posted by Irisangel on October 07, 2010
Very informative, thanks

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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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