This question is an extension of the question asked here, which I feel does not completely answer my question.

Say a website or software has continuous-color graphs, such as this color contour map which comes from the NCSS Data Analysis software (just an example, I wouldn't really want that palette specifically).

Is the palette used for those continuous color graphs under copyright? May I synthesize and use the palette in my own graphs on my own website or in my own software?

Would it make a difference as to whether the "legend" in the derivative work looked very similar (if not exactly the same) to the legend on the original?

EDIT: I have given this more thought, and I still think this is a different question than the possible duplicate. To clarify why this question is different: The previous question's answers mentions that color sets cannot in general be copyrighted. However, one of the answers does mention that:

One can copyright the arrangement of specific colors in a particular configuration (meaning the exact or near-exact positioning and arrangement of the colors), such as ColourLovers' copyright system for their palettes.

The question then is, is the legend itself treated the same as the arrangements of colors on the ColourLovers' site? Or is it treated differently because it is "functional" in nature? The legend will likely be almost exactly the same if I use someone else's palette, and so potentially by default the palette could be copyrighted because I can't use the palette without displaying the legend.

  • 4
    Possible duplicate of Copyright of a set of colors? – Ovaryraptor Dec 27 '17 at 19:18
  • This should be closed. The previous question DOES answer your question. The answer is still no, you can't copyright color palettes. As for graph styles they can't be copyrighted. – Ovaryraptor Dec 27 '17 at 19:30
  • The Copyright Act and relevant caselaw are clear on copyright protection for data: there is none. Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act states that “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. – Ovaryraptor Dec 27 '17 at 20:12
  • @Ovaryraptor: I have edited in response to the comments. – skybluecodeflier Dec 27 '17 at 23:04
  • Even after your edit the previous question still answers yours. – Luciano Jan 3 '18 at 9:21

The answer is still no.

What ColourLovers is trying to do is a negative use of Creative Commons (CC). CC is a "sharing" copyright license and this "use" of CC is not in the spirit of what CC is meant to be used for...

Bottom line:

  • Colors cannot be copyrighted.
  • Colors can be considered part of a trademark.
  • Color combinations might be protected by trademark.


  • It is pretty common to see people claim copyright where there is none. For example i have seen a lot of cad drawings with xopyright disclaimers. But because they are just iterating truth much like a phonebook they have no copyright, atleast not in my locale. – joojaa Dec 28 '17 at 6:56

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