[thelist] publishing pics of vehicles - permission/protocol

Gersten, John JGERSTEN at lchb.com
Thu Jul 24 10:54:51 CDT 2008

Unfortunately, there's another issue. Even if a private individual owns, say, a Ford Bronco, depending on how an image thereof might be used, Ford could theoretically get involved and make trouble. 

I'm not saying they would be *justified* in making trouble, but corporations tend to police their trademarks and products aggressively, and are typically quite willing to make threats and demand image-removal even if in the long run a court of law might well determine that the usage involved was fair and uninfringing.

That said, when such companies do take action, it usually amounts to little more than a letter demanding the usage of the image of the trademarked item be stopped immediately. Unfortunately, large companies don't have much of a disincentive to set their lawyers on attack mode; it's a "shoot first and worry about legitimacy later" approach. 

To be fair, when companies are *not* vigilant about policing their trademarks, they are assumed to be waiving their rights in the images, logos, etc. (This is why the Grateful Dead got a bad rap for "harrassing" t-shirt vendors at their concerts, even though if they had not taken that stance they could have lost all rights in their own name and images, etc.)

I am not a lawyer, but I work for a bunch of them ("...the horror, the horror...") and so some of their attitudes toward this kind of stuff influence my views. When we produce generic material relating to auto safety, for example, we are careful not to use recognizable trademarked images (photoshopping trucks to make them look generic, using long shots of multiple vehicles, etc.). When we produce material about specific safety defects on specific vehicles, however, we will use recognizable images of trademarked automobiles, but always include a prominent disclaimer that the trademarks belong to such-and-such company and we use them for "informational and product identification purposes only." And we are also careful to note that no people depicted in photos on our sites are clients of our firm or should be taken to endorse our practice.

Your, ah, mileage may vary. All in all, you can't go wrong getting express permission when you use recognizable images, whether of people or products. 


-----Original Message-----
From: thelist-bounces at lists.evolt.org on behalf of Eduardo Kienetz
Sent: Thu 7/24/08 8:36
To: bobm at dottedi.biz; thelist at lists.evolt.org
Subject: Re: [thelist] publishing pics of vehicles - permission/protocol
On Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 10:26 AM, Bob Meetin <bobm at dottedi.biz> wrote:
> Feedback please.  One of the businesses that I work is an automotive
> shop.  All sorts of vehicles come/go.
> 1) What's the general opinion on publishing pics of the vehicles without
> obtaining written permission of the owners?
> 2) And supposing this is done but the license plates are either obscured
> or the numbers erased with a graphics program?

Kind of guessing here...
I believe the right way to think about it is if it brings any harm to
their owners. So, showing the license plate can obviously bring harm.
Perhaps any sticker or something else peculiar to a given car could
also bring harm (help one identify the owner). I'd say that if the
license plate is erased you'd be safe.

Eduardo Bacchi Kienetz

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