Wikipedia:Logos

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For Wikipedia's own logo, see Wikipedia:Wikipedia logos.

Many images of logos are used on Wikipedia and long standing consensus is that it is acceptable for Wikipedia to use logos belonging to others for encyclopedic purposes. There are three main concerns with logo use. First, they are usually non-free images, and so their use must conform to the guidelines for non-free content and, specifically, the non-free content criteria. Second, logos are often registered trademarks and so their use is restricted independently of copyright concerns. Third, there are editorial issues about adhering to a neutral point of view and selecting an appropriate logo and representation.

The encyclopedic rationale for including a logo is similar to the rationale for including portraits of a famous actor: most users feel that portraits provide valuable information about the person that is difficult to describe solely with text. Logos should be regarded as portraits for a given entity. Unlike people, however, where it is often possible to take a free photograph of that person, logos are typically protected by copyright and trademark law and so cannot be replaced by a completely free alternative.

Copyright concerns[edit]

Uploading non-free logos[edit]

This section offers advice on applying the non-free content criteria to logos. It does not replace the policy, which is fully applicable to logos.

Company logos may appear in articles on those companies, but note that, if challenged, it is the responsibility of those who wish to include the logo to prove that its use meets Wikipedia non-free content criteria. Logos uploaded to Wikipedia must be low-resolution and no larger than necessary. The logo should receive a detailed fair use rationale — the template {{Non-free use rationale logo}} can help generate a detailed rationale that covers all necessary information. As well as a fair use rationale, the URL where the logo was found is useful to help verify the licensing information, copyright holder and authenticity of the logo. An image copyright tag must be added to all images uploaded — for most logos, {{non-free logo}} (shown below) is appropriate. Note that it is not necessary to seek formal permission from the owner in advance of using its logo, so long as the usage is fair use, does not create any impression that the logo is associated with Wikipedia or endorses either Wikipedia or the article in which the logo appears, and does not create any reasonable grounds for complaint by the owner.

Copyright-free logos[edit]

Script "Coca-Cola" with the first "C" underlining the "oca" and the last "C" looping over the "ola" and through the loop of the "l".
The Coca-Cola logo was first published in the late 19th century and contains only characters from the Spencerian Script, therefore it is not under copyright. However, it is still protected as a trademark.
The letter A in relief surrounded by a red box above the word "Adobe"
Simple combinations of the three rules are permitted provided the components are not used to form a larger image

Although most logos are non-free images and should be treated as such, there are three common cases where a logo will be copyright-free:

  1. The first case is based on the date of first publication: if the logo was first published before 1923, it can be assumed to be public domain.
  2. The second case is a logo that is simply a sequence of letters or written words: Characters from a typeface are uncopyrightable in the U.S., so logos that consist purely of characters from a typeface are also uncopyrightable. You may use {{PD-textlogo}} (shown below) on these logos.
  3. Lastly, a logo is not eligible for copyright if it consists entirely of simple geometric shapes, or a simple combination of shapes and text. {{PD-textlogo}} also applies to these, provided the image remains fairly simple overall.

Note a logo can still be protected by trademark law, even if it is not subject to copyright.

Trademark concerns[edit]

U.S. law protects the right of non-owners to use trademarks for purposes of criticism and commentary. First Amendment considerations override any limits on these expressive, noncommercial use of trademarks. "The Constitution is not offended when the [Maine] antidilution statute is applied to prevent a defendant from using a trademark without permission in order to merchandise dissimilar products or services. ... The Constitution does not, however, permit the range of the antidilution statute to encompass the unauthorized use of a trademark in a noncommercial setting such as an editorial or artistic context." (emphasis added) L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Pubs., Inc., 811 F.2d 26, 31, 33 (1st Cir. 1987.)

Similarly, the Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995 does not apply to the "noncommercial use" of a famous mark. 15 U.S.C. 1125(c)(4)(B). The U.S. Supreme Court has defined "commercial speech" as "speech which ... propose[s] a commercial transaction." Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council 425 U.S. 748, 762 (1976.)

The only limit on this right is whether someone might think that the commentary was produced by the trademark owner. "[A]n author certainly would have a First Amendment right to write about the subject of the Boy Scouts and/or Girl Scouts. However, this right is diluted by trademark law insofar as that author cannot present her subject in a manner that confuses or misleads the public into believing, through the use of one or more trademarks, that those organizations have produced or sponsored the work in question." (emphasis added) Girl Scouts of the United States v. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 808 F. Supp. 1112 at 1121, n. 12 (S.D.N.Y. 1992.)

When uploading material which is subject to trademark protection, but for which the {{non-free logo}} template does not apply, please use the {{trademark}} template message:

Note that any appropriate image copyright tags must still be used in addition to the trademark template. It is recommended to identify the trademark owner in the image description.

Editorial concerns[edit]

Advertisements[edit]

Avoid using a logo in any way that creates an impression that the purpose of its inclusion is to promote something. Generally, logos should be used only when the logo is reasonably familiar or when the logo itself is of interest for design or artistic reasons.

Negative logos[edit]

Logos should not be used in contexts which are, taken as a whole, strongly negative. It is generally acceptable to use a logo in an article about what the logo represents (such as a company or organization), or in an article discussing the logo itself, its history and evolution, or the visual style of the logo's creator. Defaced logos or logo parodies should be used with care and not given undue prominence. For example, parodies of logos may be carefully used under fair use in an article about a parody site or campaign, but should only be used in articles on the original if the parody is discussed extensively.

Logo choice[edit]

Reasonable diligence should be taken to ensure that the logo is accurate and has a high-quality appearance. This does not mean that unnecessarily high resolution images should be used, but it does mean that resized logos should not be used if their appearance differs significantly from the original. Usually, the current logo should be the logo presented. When a historical logo is used, the caption should indicate this, and there should be a good reason for the use of the historical logo (whether the current logo is used or not) explained in the historical logo's fair use rationale. Logos that contain slogans should be omitted in favour of equivalent logos that do not. The slogans can be described in the article's prose, or the article's prose and infobox (not in the infobox alone).

Logo size[edit]

In order to ensure that logos are appropriately displayed with an adequate level of detail, do not use a logo with smaller than 100-pixel resolution unless there is not a larger version.

Placement[edit]

A logo may appear in the infobox of the main article on the subject the logo represents. For example, the main company logo may appear in the main article about the company, the main school logo in the main article about the school, and the main sports team logo in the main article about the sports team, but a school logo and a school sports team logo may not both appear in the same article (although they may appear in separate articles). Outside of these limits, neither non-free nor trademarked logos (see discussion) should be used within an article.

Accessibility[edit]

Visually-impaired users, like most users, may want to know what a logo looks like. If it is in an infobox, the logo is inaccessible to visually-impaired users and, in that case, a prose description is appropriate. Because an alt text would not work in an infobox, add the prose description to the body of the article. Since the logo is a primary source and logos are rarely described in secondary sources, in a Wikipedia article a logo may be described directly from the logo, factually but preferably with prudently understated wording, to avoid its reading like advertising.

Specific cases[edit]

U.S. government agencies[edit]

U.S. law may prohibit the reproduction of designated logos of U.S. government agencies without permission. Use restrictions of such logos must be followed and permission obtained before use, if required. However, this does not affect the copyright status, because as works of the federal government, they are automatically in the public domain. These should be tagged with {{insignia}}.

Reference works[edit]

Special care should be taken when using the logo of an encyclopedia or other reference work in a Wikipedia article. While the standard for fair use remains the same as for other logos, not taking such care is more likely to introduce trademark issues.

Band logos[edit]

Shortcut:

Logos for musical bands are generally not as integral to a band's image as corporate logos are for companies. For this reason, current consensus is that non-free band logos are generally not appropriate in an article about a band unless the logo itself is discussed in the prose. A logo may be placed inline with text discussing it if its inclusion meets the non-free content criteria. Freely-licensed logos may be used, providing their inclusion enhances the article.

See also[edit]