Helping Navigate Art Licenses - Features for Designers and Developers

One thing we’ve paid extra careful attention to in developing our art database is licensing and copyright. This is in part because our co-founder is a lawyer! But also, we realize that for Kwippe to be the awesome tool that we’re hoping it will be, it has to build artwork that people can actually USE. And how you can use an image is highly dependant on the type of licensing the author has used.

We’ll have a complete guide to the licenses in our help section, but today I added a feature that I already love, which is color sorting by license type. For now I’ve divided our artwork into 3 basic categories:

  • Public Domain (yay!)
  • Open Source (great!)
  • Creative Commons (careful!)

Our Creative Commons category has some incredible art that we’re really grateful to have - but you do have to be careful when using it. The Noun Project uses this designation for most of their artwork. The gist of CC artwork is that you must attribute the author in some fashion. For websites, apps, and even books this is really easy to do - just throw up a link in your credits section. But for printing, CC art can be tricky. How do you use CC art for a t-shirt, for example? We actually had to Google that one recently… and it seems there is no exemption for printed materials. They still expect you to put an attribution on your item, no matter how small. And don’t even think about using a CC image as part of a LOGO or something like that. For logo morphing you’re much better off with a Public Domain (PD) image. Luckily we’ve got a pretty nice selection of those for folks to use as a base for logos and more.

The Open Source stuff is licensed under generous licenses like MIT and Apache, where the goal of licensing is really just so that you can’t go back and sue the author for any reason. But this artwork is free to use without attribution, which makes it different from CC. However, you still probably shouldn’t use an Open Source image as a logo unless you morph it beyond recognition - (this is NOT a legal opinion, just my own interpretation!). We will be posting links to every single license file on our designer page - so you’ll be able to read the exact license of that piece of art.

Another important thing we’ve done is make sure not to include ANY art with a “non commercial” or “no derivatives” license. These just don’t work for our system (which makes derivatives!) - or for our customers - who should be able to use everything in our app for commercial products, as well as non commercial.

I’m still working on a nice sorting system so people can sort by license, of even eliminate showing art of the wrong license type. We hope this proves helpful for all - and also keeps people mindful that you need to pay attention to licenses and give authors credit whenever using licensed work.

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