When the law makes you pivot

Posted on (updated Sep 19, 2023)

Earlier this week, I fully launched logosearch.link. It’s not exactly the product I talked about last week. I had to significantly reduce the scope of this tool for legal reasons.

In my research, I found other sites that let visitors download almost any logo in existence. The most popular one, which I only found after almost finishing my project, is Brands of the World. The more I looked at projects like that, the more I learned that they operate in a legal gray area. These sites do not hold any copyright or trademarks to any logos they offer. As such, every download comes with a block of legal text that explains that you’re on your own.

According to their terms, you’re not allowed to use the logos you download for anything. You agree to get permission from the copyright holder before you use their logo. Even then, you’re only allowed to use it for non-commercial projects. That puts the bulk of the work on the user.

Logosearch was only meant to be a quick side project to test my new tech stack. I’m not in the business of acquiring rights from hundreds or thousands copyright holders.

Maybe I’m being more cautious than I need to be, but I’d rather err on the side of safety. A commenter on the Clearbit Company Logo API’s Product Hunt page said they had to pay a fine when they used a logo without permission. Those reports are rare, but why risk it?

I changed course in my product to reduce the risk of liability. Visitors won’t be able to download any random logo. Instead, it is now a directory of companies’ official branding pages. On these, companies explain if and how people can use their logos. They also make their logos available for download on these pages.

Logosearch does not even offer a direct download option anymore. The companies listed on it also don’t need written permission before anyone uses their logos. This puts me on a safer side, and is more useful to visitors. People would have needed to look up these guidelines anyways before using the logos. The goal of the product is now to make that step easier by listing these guideline pages directly.

It’s unfortunate that this limits the size of the project. I won’t be able to list a huge number of logos. That’s fine, because it is also a more useful product now.

Fun fact(s): YouTube’s branding page says that “all uses need to be approved by YouTube”. LinkedIn’s policy “generally does not permit [anyone] to use its [name], logos, [and other branding]”. People can only use the “in” logo without permission, and then only to link to a person’s or company’s profile. The company needs to approve any other use.

I assume that many sites break these terms all the time. You won’t find companies with terms like these on Logosearch because of that.

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