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I have been asked to create some assets for a graphic design app, based on some reference similar assets from the internet.

Note that I have been asked to reproduce all graphics in Photoshop and Illustrator rather than "copy/paste" the originals. As a result the result is not pixel-level accurate, but still resembles the original a lot.

Is this a copyright infringement? (assuming that the original assets)

  • At last it depends on the country and its laws for copyright. Wouldn't it not be better to ask for permission to use the original images? – Mensch Nov 26 '14 at 21:02
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Disclaimer: Ask a lawyer, we are designers.

As mentioned in the comments, if you just recreate the outlines or shapes, and the result looks exactly or very similar to the original piece, you would be infringing copyright because of substantial similarity.

To win a claim of copyright infringement in civil or criminal court [US], a plaintiff must show he or she owns a valid copyright, the defendant actually copied the work, and the level of copying amounts to misappropriation. Under the doctrine of substantial similarity, a work can be found to infringe copyright even if the wording of text has been changed or visual or audible elements are altered.

Explain to your client what he/she is asking is illegal (and very unethical, by itself and because you are a designer as well). Check this question, you'll find some good ways to deal with this situation:

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Ideas cannot be copyright. You can can be inspired by the idea but make it work for your client. I personally wouldn't copy it but try to include a design aspect from the app that already exists into the icons like color or patterns for example.

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    Ideas can't be copyright, but there is such a thing as substantial similarity that can cause litigation problems. There is also trade dress, which may prevent use of a look-alike design, especially if it looks like an established competitor's brand. – Stan Rogers Nov 26 '14 at 21:53
  • Correct which is why you should always use ideas soley as inspiration. If you design anything it should speak specifically to that brand. – JayK Nov 26 '14 at 22:04

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