Possible Copyright Issue - Was I wrong/right?


Well-Known Member
Hi all,

Here's a little discussion I'd like to get your opinions on:

Recently I was approached to "layout" (by which they really meant design) a 40+ page magazine with front and back cover.

I decided to turn down this job for two reasons:

1/ The budget was embarrassingly low.

2/ Should I of gone ahead with the job, I believe we would of been liable for several counts of copyright infringement:

The magazine was to be titled by the same name as another popular magazine.

They told me they were 'lifting relevant pictures and images from the internet' for use in their magazine.

I advised them that it would be in their best interest to rename their magazine to something that is not already in existence. I also informed them that using images from the internet is only ok if you a) Pay for them, b) Be sure to check that they are copyright free or c) Get permission to use them from the copyright holder.

Long story short, they basically said that I was completely wrong, told me how many decades they have been in the business, and that they are very much familiar with press laws. I should probably mention that this magazine is to be sold to their subscribers overseas, not that I believe that makes a difference! They went on to say that, their is no magazine of that name in the country which it is to be sold, and that it had been cleared by the Corporate Affairs in the said country before they adopted the name. Apparently, and I quote; "No one can sue anyone else for using the title of a book, an article or a magazine already used by someone because ideas flow and words are not commodities that can be hoarded."

With regards to using images from the internet they said: "The internet is a research source. If pictures are lifted from there which do even relate to an individual there is no reason why anybody would want to sue anybody, unless there is a defamatory story to it."

So guys, your thoughts?
My thoughts would be to wait for the next issue and send a copy or two to owners/publishers of the 'other' magazine by the same title. See how they feel on the issue.
This would be their first issue, it is a 'new' idea for a magazine in the country.

I am staying well clear, good luck to them.
It depends on the usage of the name.

If it's called "Aliens" and it's about extraterrestrials, and America has one called "Aliens" and it's about immigrants then it's argued there would be no confusion even if on the same shelf, as long as design and layout were suitably different.

See case of Oprah Winfrey and magazine "O" and a German bondage magazine.

Names and logos often take the same name and shape. For example the Quark "quircle" 20050921_fg1.jpg

As long as they are not in the same product field it's fine. I'm sure if someone release DTP software with that logo Quark would go after them.

Images for press release can be different too, under press laws you would need to cite your source, for example you'd often see a picture in a newspaper stating "Courtesy of Getty".

All I'd have done there is ensure that you have an email stating they have obtained any copyright and legal statements in regards to the print run of the magazine.

As long as you have that you're ok. If anything came back to you you have it on their authority that they've sourced the correct licenses and obtained the rights to reprint.
I see your point, but even then I think it is an unnecessary risk that offers little imagination.

The magazine is for businesses, the magazine currently in existence of the same name is for businesses. Their purposes match in the sense that you would buy one magazine for the same reason as the other magazine. As to which magazine you buy would simply depend on your location.

That Quark logo example: Although they are all pretty much the same, even they have subtle differences and are all called a different name.

Regarding the images, they were simply going to do a google image search for the images they require for the whole magazine, including the cover. I do not feel they had any intention of citing the source, or even felt the need to, they simply wanted to get images and place them in their magazine. I doubt they would of even bothered making a note of the source.

They budget indicated to me that they were going to cut as many corners as possible.

Either way, I would not have accepted the job as the budget was just about enough for me to design the front and back cover, let alone the 40+ inside pages.
1/ The budget was embarrassingly low.

I would have walked away at that point. Putting together a magazine is no quick job, and you're against the clock as it is, without having to worry about how close you are to budget. Add that to the 'iffy' issue of copyright and you've probably saved yourself a lot of hassle. You have to go with your gut sometimes.
Yes the budget is crap. So rejecting the job on that alone is sufficient enough.

I haven't seen the magazine in question so it's hard to tell.

I avoid any copyright infringement where possible, and I inform people all the time that they need to seek the proper licenses or permission to print or publish something.

It seems like common sense but people don't have much of that, they see the internet as a market place for free stuff.
"The internet is a research source. If pictures are lifted from there which do even relate to an individual there is no reason why anybody would want to sue anybody, unless there is a defamatory story to it."

Photographers might take a different view.