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(Message started by: Glenn Cowen on Oct 7th, 2004, 10:45am)

Title: Fair Use of a Logo?
Post by Glenn Cowen on Oct 7th, 2004, 10:45am
I am a sports documentary film producer and I am putting together a documentary on some of the great high school basketball players of the last 10 years.  My question concerns the use of high school logos for some cover art we would like to create:

The artwork will be an illustration piece reproducing the high school jerseys of some of the notable players featured in the film.  Basically, I want to know, can I do this without violating any copyrights/trademarks the school may have in and to their school jersey logos, or is there a fair use qualification that would allow me to do this?  

Its not like I'm trying to sell replicas, I just want to create artwork that incorporates their logos.


Glenn Cowen


Title: Re: Fair Use of a Logo?
Post by JimIvey on Oct 7th, 2004, 2:08pm
That's an interesting question.  It's unlikely that high schools would have aggressive enforcement campaigns on their logos (as trademarks or as copyrighted material).  However, if Disney made a movie that thoroughly exploited a high school logo and made lots of money, you can reasonably expect that the school -- most likely having fiscal issues -- would like to see some of that money.

What you have going for you is (i) you're making a documentary which is like news footage and (ii) you're using the logos within the movie to describe the schools themselves.  For example, I can use the Honda trademark to describe Honda cars.  That's what the trademark is for.

Putting the school logos on your promotional materials (cover art) puts you in a bit of a grey area.  They could argue that you're using their logos to sell your movie and/or to suggest endorsement by the school.  I think your position is stronger if you use photographs of signs at the schools themselves rather than reproducing the logo itself.  

On the positive sign, it shouldn't be that hard to ask the schools for permission.  Hopefully, enough of them will consent to fill your cover art.

Good luck!

Title: Re: Fair Use of a Logo?
Post by JSonnabend on Oct 7th, 2004, 2:56pm
I concur with Jim's analysis.

You can also do some legal research (or ask an attorney to do so for you) to see if any cases with similar fact patterns have been published.  This may help to "un-grey" some of the "grey" areas.

- Jeff

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