Copyright laws for print advertising cover the use of company logos and original images. This allows companies to protect brands while encouraging them to incorporate new styles and original works into advertising campaigns. Copyright protection is not granted to the language used in advertisements, meaning companies cannot usually copyright an entire print ad as an original creative work.
Names and Slogans
Copyright law in the United States does not extend intellectual property protection to an advertising slogan or other short catchphrase. Your business is also prevented from copyrighting its name, according to the U.S. Copyright Office's website. You can trademark your business name in the style in which it is depicted through an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You may also trademark a signature phrase or slogan from an advertising campaign.
Images in Print Advertising
If an image or logo used in advertising has sufficient authorship, it may garner copyright protection under federal copyright regulations. Sufficient authorship is defined as a nongeneric image conceived by an individual or group as an original creative work. Using copyrighted images in print advertising without permission is considered a violation of copyright law. Internet media giant Google found this out when the company was sued in October 2010 by Scherba Industries Inc. The copyright infringement suit alleges Google used a copyrighted image of an inflated blue gorilla in advertisements without proper permission.
Protections Granted by Copyright
Copyright law prevents another person or business from appropriating your intellectual property for profit without your express written permission. Without this permission, you retain sole rights to profit from the sale of your original work and create derivative creations based on your work. For example, if another business were to appropriate the original logo of your business without your permission, you would have grounds to sue for copyright infringement. Infringement occurs because the offending business is attempting to profit from the value and consumer loyalty associated with your business's logo.
Determining Copyright Status
Before using an image in a print advertisement, determine whether the image is protected under copyright law. The U.S. Copyright Office's website can provide you with forms to determine the author of a specific original image. If you obtained the image from a website or print publication, the site or publication usually displays the name of the image creator for copyright purposes. Send a letter to the author of the work requesting permission to the use the image in your advertisements. The author is free to charge you whatever fee he likes for you to use the work. If you don't pay, your use of the image is illegal.