Can you use the logos of other organisations in your website?

Question Details: The Community Law website uses other organisations' logos. Is that ok? Please see the link for reference.

www.communitylaw.org.nz

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

In this case yes - but it depends very much on the circumstances, and in many cases you cannot.

The law creates several different protections for intellectual property such as a logo. Use of another organisation's logo will often be considered a breach of copyright. In some circumstances it may also be considered "passing off" - that means that by using another organisation's logo you are passing off your business as theirs (effectively, stealing part of their goodwill). An organisation's name might also be registered as a trade mark. Use in these circumstances could break the law.

However, there are some exceptions to breaches of copyright in the Copyright Act. One is where another person's material is used for "fair dealing" (also known as "reasonable use"). This can arise where you use the logo for the purpose of criticism, review or news reporting. Whether this exception can apply depends greatly on the circumstances and facts of the case. "Fair dealing" use must be done with good faith and intention. A key question is whether your use competes with the owner's use of their copyright.

Using logos on the Community Law website in the "News and Media" section would generally fall within this exception, and no breach of copyright has occurred. If, on the other hand, the Community Law website used logos in a way that implied that they had a connection or tie with another organisation when they did not, then this would likely be a breach of copyright (and perhaps it would be "passing off" as well). If the Community Law website displayed others' logos but didn't make it clear that this was in a news context, then there would be a risk of copyright breach.

Despite this exception, it is always a good idea to check with the company whose logo you intend to use BEFORE you use it. In many cases, the company will be happy to let you use their logo if you explain the purpose and it doesn't hurt their business.

Whether your use of someone else's copyrighted property constitutes "fair dealing" can also often be a difficult question, and if you are in any doubt you should speak with a lawyer.

Answered 12 Jul 2012. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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