What are the common mistakes to avoid so I don’t have artwork copyright issues?

Keep delays at bay, go the RouteNote way.

The golden rules for making sure you don’t encounter artwork copyright issues are:

  1. Make sure you identify the owner of the artwork
  2. Check you’re allowed to use it for commercial purposes
  3. Keep the proof of this in case we need to ask you about it.

The common mistakes:

  • Screencaps of videos from YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok
    Just because a video is free to view on these sites, it doesn’t mean that content from it is free to reuse commercially. Videos uploaded to these sites remain under copyright to whoever created them, and you need their direct permission to use any element of them, including screengrabs.
  • Free wallpaper sites
    There’s loads of sites out there advertising ‘free wallpapers’ that people can download and use on their computers or phones. Two problems with these:
    1. ‘Free’ usually means ‘free to download and use on your own device’, not ‘free to download and reuse commercially’. This means they’re not eligible to be used as release artwork.
    2. These sites often don’t actually have the rights to distribute the images in the first place. They’re often taken from a variety of sources and then hosted without the appropriate permissions.
  • Video game screenshots or promotional material
    Unfortunately, screenshots from video games fall into the same category as screenshots from movies and TV shows; it’s content owned by the copyright holder of the game, and we can’t include it on commercial releases. The same applies for promotional material (think official Nintendo drawings of Mario, Pikachu, or similar).
  • Google Image search
    If you just Google for your artwork and pick the images from the Google Images result, you’ve got no idea where the picture’s come from, who owns it, and so on. When users do this, it often turns out that the image is under copyright and we aren’t able to accept it, but they didn’t know.
  • Anime
    We get a lot of artwork made of screenshots from anime movies or series. Like any other film, these are under copyright, and unless you have specific permission from whoever owns the copyright – which is usually a big studio who won’t just allow anyone to do what they want with bits of their movies – you aren’t going to be able to use it.
  • Websites
    The layout of websites is under copyright the same way other visual content is. This means that you’re not able to use screenshots of websites like Facebook, Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, or other websites, in your artwork. Additionally, stores don’t like hosting images of their competitors.
  • Apple content
    Apple tend to be very protective of their copyrighted visual material. This includes things like their logos, product designs, webpages/apps, and most commonly their emojis. Please avoid using any copyrighted emojis, especially Apple ones, in your artwork.
  • What about brands and logos?
    It’s okay for logos or brand icons to be visible in your artwork, so long as they’re incidental and not a main focus. Examples of this might be:
    – Fashion logo visible on a t-shirt someone’s wearing.
    – Company logo on buildings in the background of the release artwork.
    – Logo on a drinks can the subject of the artwork is holding.

If the logo or brand is a main focus of the artwork, then we’d have to ask you to change it. Examples of this might be:

  • A picture of a heavily branded t-shirt against a blank background.
  • A company’s logo (e.g. the McDonalds’ logo) on its own.
  • A soft drinks can with a clearly visible logo taking up the majority of the image.

Some stores are likely to interpret artwork like this as an image that the artist doesn’t own.

Have a watch of our handy video below for more tips!

Check out the full RouteNote Style Guide here!

See also:
Are there any types of things I can’t include in my release artwork?

Can I use a picture from Google as my artwork?
Can I use logos or brands in my artwork?

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