Maybe you really like the logo used by a specific business. Perhaps you have long operated and marketed your company as part of a franchise and have recently ended your agreement. Despite no longer having a franchise, you want to continue doing business.
The idea that you can take an existing logo or other copyrighted image and change it to use it yourself is very appealing. Many people have heard the claim that making a 20 to 30% change to an original image can protect someone from copyright claims brought by the original creator. Is that true?
Alterations do not impact copyright protection
The idea that there is a way to change someone else’s creation and use it to generate profit for your company is popular, but it is not an honest reflection of how intellectual property protection works. The United States Copyright Office, the federal agency that registers copyrights, states on its website that making changes to someone else’s original work and republishing it does not fall under fair use.
No amount of alteration to someone else’s creation will protect you from a copyright claim by the original creator. The only exception to this may be when you want to create a similar image for the purposes of parody. People and companies can also sample, depict or cite a copyrighted work as part of a review or critical commentary on the original work.
Although you could potentially use an existing logo or image as inspiration, it may be better to simply create something fresh and new for your company’s logo or next advertising campaign. Learning more about intellectual property rules can help you avoid making a potentially expensive mistake.