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Pictures of branded products on posters ? advice on legalities

Tooth 16 5.8k 227 Ireland
23 Jun 2006 3:01PM
Hi all, I wonder if any legal eagles out there could give an informal pitch on this. We’ve been involved in producing a poster which involves showing photographs of common identifiable branded foodstuffs and scanned images of their ingredients lists, to make the point that all foodstuffs carry information on what is in them. There are about ten foodstuffs on the poster. Now the funding agency for the poster has said that before we launch it we need to check the legalities of things such as “copyright” of the images. I know they’re (understandably) trying to cover their own backs legally on this.

My personal reading of it would be that the copyright on the images clearly belongs to either myself or my employer. So the question is not so much about copyright as what the subject of the pictures is. Presumably the foodstuffs are all in the public domain, so (truthful and undoctored) images of them are acceptable. Hence what it boils down to seems to be, do you need a “model release” for branded products?

This is only my own reading of it though – I’d be grateful for any other insights. Thanks in advance for your help

keithh 18 25.8k 33 Wallis And Futuna
23 Jun 2006 3:10PM
A professional would by now have contacted the companies who own the products and asked them for permission to use them in the campaign. It's better than being sued for your shirt.
brian1208 18 11.8k 12 United Kingdom
23 Jun 2006 4:38PM
I agree with Keith on this, although I did write to a "well known manufacturer" of sweets about exhibiting for sale one of my images showing their brand name on an item within it - got absolutely nothing back, so I'm none the wiser Sad
BruceC 16 171
23 Jun 2006 4:51PM
Although you own copyright in the images themselves, the problem is that you are reproducing the trademarks of the product manufacturers, and therefore infringing the trademarks unless you have a licence. Some trademark owners are very hot on protecting their rights, and will take action if images are published for profit where their trademark is prominent in the image. That's why pros take the route that Keith has explained. Most stock libraries have rules about not reproducing logos without a licence from the rights owner.

Tooth 16 5.8k 227 Ireland
23 Jun 2006 5:25PM
Thanks for the input so far. yes Keith I take and respect your point as always but funding and time constraints would have meant that the thing would never have materialised if we had to source a pro. tog. (though I can foresee your reply to that point as well....)

Bruce, that's the legal stuff I needed to know - interesting that the trademarks are the issue. There is certainly no question of profit from our point of view, as a public health agency, but I can see where they might be coming from. Any other inputs to get me out of this quandary ?(and probably into another one Smile )


BruceC 16 171
23 Jun 2006 6:13PM
Stephen, don't assume that they can ONLY take action if the publication is for profit - that's not the case. Infringement is infringement, but some rights owners don't bother unless the infringement is in a commercial context.

I'm afraid there's no safe solution other than asking them for permission.

keithh 18 25.8k 33 Wallis And Futuna
23 Jun 2006 6:25PM
It's the old context and usage angle again.

If this was an editorial piece in which you were comparing brands and perhaps even scoring out of ten...something seen often...then you'd fall within the scope of being 'news' and the freedom it affords, but this seems to be something else.

As I read it, it's a public service type document that explains food labelling, so I wouldn't see any problem with the producers saying yes to any of it...just ring them on Monday and ask to speak their marketing depts.

Bruce is right on the trademark front but it's also the pack-shots. For all you know, I may have taken some of the pack fronts...the serving suggestions as they are referred to and then someone wants to put up a poster featuring images of my work, the brand name, the TM and in perhaps a derogatory or questionable light...that's where the problem lies.

I'd say from your question that you could get this cleared in codicil....if it was me, I'd want to see the quality of repro that my product was being portrayed on.
Tooth 16 5.8k 227 Ireland
26 Jun 2006 2:38PM
Thanks boys for some very in depth replies (though not what I wanted to hear of course!) By the way sorry for not getting back over the w/e, but the dreaded new server disease kept me in a timewarp of June 19th.

Thanks again, much appreciated - I'll report back on the outcome

sabretalon 17 1.9k United Kingdom
26 Jun 2006 2:59PM
The other side to think about is "The Brand" the manufacturer of that product may have built up a specific look for their brand and would not want to see that damaged in any way!

Brands are more important to them than people realise, I know this by working in a brand conscious environment.

If a company has worked hard at getting their image right, then someone comes along and knocks out a few posters, that just by having their product in the images, projects to the viewer that it is endorsed by that company, when in fact it may be counter productive to what they set out to achieve! They would not be too happy about that and some large companies will take action.

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