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use of company logos on web page

Posted: Thu May 12, 2011 7:52 pm
by dove

I'm part of a non-profit campaign group which highlights corporate complicity in human rights violations. We have a web page on each company with its research, the page includes the company's logo. We have been told by our web host provider that we must remove the pages or they will shut the web site down as in accordance with s.1 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 (UK) we must have permission of the companies to use their logos on our website. Where does the law stand on this? Any advice would be welcome.


Posted: Thu May 12, 2011 9:50 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Dove,
Your hosting company is technically correct that using these logos without permission could infringe copyright, and also possibly infringe them as trade marks. That said, it is possible that your use could be justified as fair dealing for the purposes of reporting current affairs. This would apply only where copyright infringement was alleged; it is not a defence under the Trade Mark Act. On the other hand mere use of another's trade mark is not automatically classed as infringement if it is not used in the course of trade, which demonstrably you are not.
The problem you face is that it is easier for the hosting company to take the easy way out as it removes them from liability, without the 'target' companies having to do more than threaten to take action. In other words it is unlikely that you face litigation because that would provide your site with publicity which the companies probably prefer to avoid and in any case there is no certainty that they would win, because leaning on the hosting company costs little and has a greater effect. You will probably find that in their terms and conditions they reserve the right not to host illegal or defamatory material, so that is their get-out.
It might be worth contacting one of the larger organisations in the area of human rights such as Amnesty, and see if they would agree to either host your site on their servers, or provide a recommendation for a host who would be prepared to help.

Posted: Fri May 13, 2011 7:23 am
by dove
Thanks for the great information on trade marks.

I looked at the copyright act, it has a section on acts permitted in relation to copyright works which includes criticism, review and news reporting, and research for non-commercial purpose. I think you are spot on - the corporations know the hosting company will fold without resistance - they are the weak link in shutting us up.