I made design software and I'm making samples of its use.

Am I allowed to use things like mini-coopers in my samples?

What are the legal guidelines for using another company's products in my sample designs?

  • I would assume that as long as you remove all branding marks/logos from the cars you'll be fine. Then again, I'm no lawyer and this is a design site, not a legal one. Ask here: law.stackexchange.com – Manly Feb 22 '17 at 18:27
  • What do you mean "use cars"? Photos of cars? Did you take them yourself? Your question is very unclear – Zach Saucier Feb 22 '17 at 18:44
  • It doesn't have to be cars, it could be any product. Can I use products in general when I make samples of design? (it's not photos of competitors) I'm in the animation/design software business. To make samples of my animation/design software, I need 'lorem ipsum' type pictures of products. – Funkodebat Feb 22 '17 at 19:44
  • Probably not if you are doing it commercially. Get legal advice in your area, this question is not about the design product in itself (layout, etc), but about using third party products to market your own product. This is legal and you tagged it legal. – Lucian Feb 22 '17 at 19:50

I've worked on pieces for a few car dealers.. and...

In terms of commercial use... Yes, you need permission to use photos of their products. Actually, you may need two levels of permission.

  • Permission from the creator of the product (Automobile company)
  • Permission from the photographer

In many cases, the automobile manufacturer owns all rights to their product photos. So you only need their approval.

However, if some photographer takes a photo of a car for commercial purposes, he/she should have permission to use the product likeness. Just because the auto manufacture may have given the photographer permission, that does not mean that permission transfers to you as a third party, even if the photograph grants you permission for use. You'd have to either ask the photographer or check with the manufacturer.

This is why many royalty free stock image sites either do not have photos of cars with emblems or logos on them. Or, if they do they are designated for "editorial use only". Note removing emblems/logos may work in some instances. However, if being litigious, a manufacturer may try and prove overall "trade dress" or "recognition due to likeness" even if emblems/logos are removed. -- I mean, a 2017 Challenger looks like a 2017 Challenger, even if it doesn't have any actual Dodge markings on it.

All that being posted, without knowing specific use, there are areas of Fair Use (like editorial) that may not require permission. Certainly using images to show off your skills in a portfolio is traditionally not an issue. However, using images in "samples" which you then sell or otherwise give away to customers is another matter entirely.

I am not a lawyer and none of this is intended as direct legal advice.

Based upon comments under the question.....

It's not so much the images themselves... it's what you are using the images for. Sample images to use in things like a video demonstrating your software can be purchased from many stock image sites, since that use is commercial but not directly selling the images as part of a package. Then there are "extended license" images which do allow you to include the image in a product you are selling. In short.. there are a ton of stock image sites ( 2, 3 ) where you can find generic product shots which would be usable in a demonstration for commercial purposes.

  • Very good points here actually. – Lucian Feb 22 '17 at 19:56
  • Wait if i photograph a house do i need permission from the architect? If i use commercially. Howabout a toy, or a chair? Or clothes? – joojaa Feb 22 '17 at 21:12
  • for strict commercial purposes -- The architect, no.. but permission from the home owner yes. Even stock photography of buildings requires permission from the building owners. Granted it's not something companies really pursue if you're selling their products or helping sales (unless the company is named Disney), but technically you do need permission. There's a lot of "Fair Use" situations though.... – Scott Feb 22 '17 at 21:18
  • @Scott so why does not a car only need permission from car owner? No fair use rights in any other country except us. – joojaa Feb 22 '17 at 21:20
  • Every situation is different. If you use a photo of a Ford automobile to sell Ford stuff... Ford isn't going to care. So, you only need permission from the photographer. If there are personal identifying aspects of the car in the photo (such as a license plate number), then yes, you'd need permission from the owner. A home is nothing but personal information. :) – Scott Feb 22 '17 at 21:23

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