Can I use a rubber stamp image on my website?
February 27, 2008 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Are there any copyright infringement issues to using a Rubber Stamp Image that I purchased on my website?

I bought this rubber stamp that I would love to use the image on my website, but my friend says there are copyright issues. I say that I bought the stamp and the rights to use it as I want. I am not profiting off the image, and I won't claim it as my own.

If there are issues, would it be best to cite where the rubber stamp's company on my website or just leave it alone and not use it?

posted by karyys to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
Response by poster: Just wanted to clarify this is an arts/crafts rubber stamp. Made for the purpose of using in art projects, greeting cards, scrapbooks, and the like.
posted by karyys at 5:59 AM on February 27, 2008

Is your question about the rubber stamp itself or the stamped image it produces when it is used? I don't think there's any issues about the rubber stamp itself. As for the stamped image that is produced, if it's a copyrighted image, like say it was a stamp of Mickey Mouse then theoretically, yes, it is a copyright violation. But if the stamped image is your own creation, there shouldn't be any problem with it. Can't say I've ever heard of a rubber stamp company that was copyrighting what's printed on the stamps made for customers (or even if they could).
posted by junesix at 6:03 AM on February 27, 2008

I'm not even remotely an expert on copyright issues, much less an attorney, but I would think that there is a reasonable expectation when manufacturing/designing a rubber art stamp, said stamp is going to be used by the purchaser to create artwork and that artwork may eventually be published in some form.

As long as you are manually using the stamp to create art and then using said art as the image on your website, I don't see how that can be construed as misuse.
posted by prettymightyflighty at 6:08 AM on February 27, 2008

It depends on who made the stamp and what that company's rights are. Some rubber stamp companies are "Angel" companies and allow you to use the images on commerical works (but sometimes they specify hand stamped uses only - so you couldn't, say, use a photocopier to make 1,000 greeting cards with the image). Some companies, like junesix mentions, make stamps with very recognizable copyrighted images like Mickey or Snoopy and using those is a no-no.

Is the manufacturer of the stamp listed on the wooden mount? It is often worth contacting them and asking for permission. In addition, many smaller stamp companies' images are basically cleaned up versions of clip art so you perhaps can find the image elsewhere.
posted by pointystick at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2008

I own a rubber stamp company.

pointystick's answer is correct. Each company will have a different policy on this and you really should check with the company. For example, my company's policy is here. These are usually called "angel policies" if that helps you search for them.

It's unclear from your question whether you want to put a piece of artwork that happens to include the image on your site, or if you just want to use the image by itself as an illustration or logo. I think some companies would treat each of those situations differently.

The safest thing to do is to ask the company. I know there are a few people who have asked me, and I have given them permission beyond what is in my angel policy, just because they asked and were cool about it. (And sometimes they've wanted to use stamps that I got from public domain images anyway, in which case I tell them they are free to do whatever the heck they want, since the image is public domain. But many of my images are not PD so people do need to ask.)

Be prepared, some companies will say no. Some are very restrictive. Others are not.
posted by litlnemo at 7:09 AM on February 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

Could I use a stamp that created an image of Mickey Mouse™ at all? Or would that be a violation?
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:22 AM on February 27, 2008

Response by poster: The company logo is not on the wood-mounted rubber stamp.
It is not a recognizable character like mickey mouse.
I'm not looking to profit, I wanted to use the image on the header of my blog website.
So I would stamp the image, scan it, upload it to my website. That's it. I'm not trying to use it as a logo, I just thought it was nice looking.

Litlenemo, any idea if inkyantics is one of those restrictive companies?

I am prepared to contact them, because I want to do the right thing and not step on anyone's toes. Any thoughts on how to go about asking properly??

Thank you for all the input, keep em coming! I'm learning a lot.
posted by karyys at 7:32 AM on February 27, 2008

Licensed/trademarked images like Mickey Mouse are a problem, generally. You can't ever use them on anything that might be considered even remotely commercial. IIRC, some companies with licensed images have different policies for those stamps than for the rest of the stamps in their line.

Typically you can use those stamps to stamp on, say, a Christmas card you send to your friends, but not on one you plan to sell at a craft fair.

As far as a website is concerned, I think it really does matter what type of use it is, and how strict the company is. Even if they say "no mechanical reproduction" many companies aren't necessarily going to object to you using a picture of your artwork including that stamp on your website as a "look what I did this weekend" blog entry, even though that is technically mechanical reproduction. But if they are like Disney, they might.

On a peripheral note, I had someone ask me just last week to make him a custom sheet of stamps using a bunch of another company's stamp images. (I said no, of course.) I imagine that very few companies have an angel policy that would allow that sort of thing. :)
posted by litlnemo at 7:37 AM on February 27, 2008

karyys, here is the Inky Antics copyright page.

They say: "No Inky Antics image may be mechanically reproduced or copied by any means including, but not limited to, photocopying, computer scanning and printing, using overhead or opaque projectors for enlarging or hand-copying images, or any other means."

So it looks like they do ban it, but you should e-mail them and ask, with a specific example of what you want to do. Maybe they will let you do it then.
posted by litlnemo at 7:41 AM on February 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I did email them. In the end, no matter what response I get on metafilter, it's only right to hear it from the source right? So we'll see what they say. The worst thing they can say is no.

I appreciate all your responses. Thank you so much.

~ Karyys
posted by karyys at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2008

I would contact the company, mention how much you like the image you purchased from them, and that you would like to use it on your website. Ideally, they will realize that this means more exposure for them, and permission will be no problem.
posted by misha at 7:57 AM on February 27, 2008

IANAL, but shouldn't this type of use come under the protection of the first sale doctrine? Whether or not that image is copyrighted?
Supreme Court, Quality King Distributors, Inc. vs. L'Anzaresearch Int'l, Inc (98 F.3d 1109, reversed). Justice Stevens: "The whole point of the first sale doctrine is that once the copyright owner places a copyrighted item in the stream of commerce by selling it, he has exhausted his exclusive statutory right to control its distribution."
posted by deCadmus at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2008

First sale rights extend only to the original object, deCadmus. Copyright holders don't have the right to control how you distribute that item. But asker is not asking about distributing the stamp (which she has the right to sell or give away). She is asking about reproducing and electronically distributing the copyrighted image it creates. Similar situation to ripping an MP3 from a CD and distributing it over the internet. You have the right to sell or give away that CD, but not to file share the information it contains.
posted by nanojath at 9:44 AM on February 27, 2008

Response by poster: Follow-up:

I got my response from inky antics, this was their email in its entirety:

"I have attached our policy, warm regards..."

Uh, the answer was no.

Thanks for the responses.
posted by karyys at 12:46 PM on February 27, 2008

Sorry about that. What is the image? If my company has a similar one we could probably work something out. :) Or there may be a similar piece of public domain art you could use instead.
posted by litlnemo at 3:21 PM on February 27, 2008

If you commissioned a stamp, it's yours, and they can't really tell you how you can or can't use it, despite what their policy tells you—said policy can be utterly toothless, depending on the circumstances.
posted by oaf at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2008

Oaf, from what the OP said, the stamp was not her own commissioned artwork. It's artwork copyrighted by the stamp company (Inky Antics). So, yes, they can indeed tell her how it can or can't be used.
posted by litlnemo at 6:55 AM on February 29, 2008

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