QLD Copyright or Legal Ownership of School Logos?

Discussion in 'Commercial Law Forum' started by Warriormonx, 13 August 2018.

  1. Warriormonx

    Warriormonx Active Member

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    The question I have concerns regarding the legal status of school crests, coats or arms, logos and other unique or distinguishing emblems. What are the legalities of copyright for reproducing these? Are there any existing precedents governing their use? What about public schools versus private schools?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
     
  2. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer
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    In the language of copyright, they are "artistic works".

    Yes, copyright accrues in them , and no, you can't just, for example,
    produce merch with a school's logo on it, without permission.

    Further, some of them (especially the private schools' ones)
    might even be registered trademarks.

    It's the same law as covers things like big brand symbols
    and licensed merch such as footy jerseys.
     
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  3. Warriormonx

    Warriormonx Active Member

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    Hi Tim,

    Thank you so much for the response - it was exactly what I was after.

    Could I ask a couple of related, follow up questions? Considering the government owned, not-for-profit status of state schools and that a) schools earn profit on the sale of these items, b) these uniforms are not available for purchase elsewhere, c) students are compelled by the school to wear that schools uniform and d) the school / P&C has exclusive control over the prices for the uniforms; might using copyright law in this fashion this be considered as a monopolistic and / or anti-competitive behavior? Are you aware of any legal or statutory protections that are afforded to schools that shield them from competition in the open market? Cheers in advance for any further information!
     
  4. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer
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    No.
    That would be the Copyright Act. No need for special provisions for schools per se.
    Also, understand that public schools are not "non-profit". They are not businesses, nor are they associations.
    Therefore, "Profit" and "Not For Profit" are irrelevant concepts.
    And it's not "competition in the open market" when one of the players is infringing copyright.

    Typically, P&Cs, P&Fs etc who raise funds through the sale of school uniforms do so with a licence
    to use the artistic work in question. Sometimes, the word "licence" is replaced with plainer language, such as "having permission" or "having approval".

    Are you the P&C that's being infringed?
    Or are you a would-be bootlegger?
    Or just a parent who has a problem with having to buy the legit merch?
     
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  5. Rob Legat - SBPL

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    It's probably also relevant that "not for profit" doesn't mean what most people seem to believe it means. A NFP can charge above 'cost' for their goods and services accepting that cost isn't just what the NFP pays for the product; it also includes contributions against direct and indirect running costs (think wages, rent, utilities, insurance, shrinkage, transport, payment processing, etc...). It can even charge a margin above that which, rightly, is considered profit - which is where the confusion kicks in.

    A 'for profit' entity can take its profit and distribute it out to its owners/members/shareholders. A NFP cannot. It must re-invest its return into itself to pursue its declared aims, or must provide the proceeds to another NFP (usually one sharing the same aims). Ultimately, the profit achieved must not be provided to a private entity for their own use.

    The difficulty arises where you have a NFP that employs someone whose wage/salary is extravagant. That is legal - but questionably immoral and/or unethical. Either way, it doesn't turn a NFP into a 'for profit'.
     
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  6. Warriormonx

    Warriormonx Active Member

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    Thank you for correcting me on the NFP angle - I felt that I was on shaky ground so good to know. So I am right in assuming that the 'licence' would be issued by a State government department? If so, would they be the body who would have to approve use of the artistic work rather than the school?

    Would-be bootlegger? Ha ha - whoa, calm down. I am none of these things - I am am simply looking at what opportunity there might be to legitimately create an alternative for parents of children in school to purchase equivalent uniforms at reduced prices without doing so in breach of copyright. By way of an example, I purchased a school netball uniform for my daughter the other day. A friend of mine who deals with the purchase of clothing from China as a part of his job estimated that the particular item would cost between $5-10 landed. They are sold for $130 and available exclusively through the school. I understand the necessity of fund raising, however this appears somewhat unconscionable.

    The equivalence of (for example) a NRL club jersey and a public school uniform by regarding both as 'legit merch' is a little galling to me I will confess, irrespective of copyright. I would be interested in what kind of argument could be mounted that might distinguish between the two, specifically considering that the former is a discretionary purchase whereas the latter (for those attending the school) is not. The best angle might be for me to test the licence by applying for the use of one.
     
  7. Warriormonx

    Warriormonx Active Member

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    Hi Rob,

    Yes, I got that totally wrong and suspected that when I penned the post. Thank you for the correction.
     
  8. Rob Legat - SBPL

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    I would say if they're available exclusively through the school, you'll have little to no chance in arranging anything in competition.
     
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  9. Warriormonx

    Warriormonx Active Member

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    Thanks Rob - for the items that are embroided with the licenced logos that certainly seems the case. As I am discovering, there are many thousands of items that are generic and are unmarked with logos or emblems that are not subject to the same copyright restrictions.
     
  10. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer
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    I think you'll find that the head of the school (principal, headmistress etc) has delegation ("authority") from the department to do that.
    Most people who ask questions like yours on this topic are one of those three.
    You're number three, in that the core of your problem appears to be with the retail price
    (the other two are about infringing copyright, one way or the other).
    Greedy, maybe. But that's about it.
    And (for the benefit of people who read this thread later) it's not monopolistic or anti-competitive in the way you were wondering about above.
    There is no distinction. That's the point.
    As to the moral legitimacy of making margin on a product, think how many people do not blink at paying $120-odd for a footy jersey made for... a very low cost... in a sweatshop in a developing country.
    You're not "testing the licence" - that's not a term that has any meaning at law.
    Understand however, that while there's no harm in asking for a licence of your own,
    you'll also have nowhere to go if they just say "No."

    One last thought - school politics can be feral. Consider the adverse impact upon your child(ren)
    when you become the parent who "causes trouble".
     
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