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Copyright a template ?

Discussion in 'Clipart, Vehicle Templates and Digital Files' started by autoexebat, May 10, 2018.

  1. autoexebat

    autoexebat Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    I have made several templates over the years for various things, every now and then I see my templates show up for sale on other sites,

    The other day I went to motorsportemplaes website, bought a template and I noticed a note from them saying all their templates have copyright and you can be sued. I sent them an email asking how they were able to get them copyrighted as id like to do mine! they didn't want to tell me much info other then they sued 2 people and got big money.

    If you look on google it clearly says you can NOT copyright a template .. so whats the deal?
  2. EffectiveCause

    EffectiveCause Premium Subscriber

    May 21, 2015
    Denton, TX
    From what I understand, if they made a template with say a diamond plate pattern in it, then they could get that copyrighted. But it would only be for the diamond plate pattern. So if you changed it to say a brick pattern then technically you didnt break the copyright because fill in the blank type templates are too general to be copyrighted.
  3. equippaint

    equippaint Very Active Member

    Oct 10, 2014
    More than likely they're telling stories to try and scare people. Templates are easy to make and are only relevent for so long. Why waste time copywriting them even if you could.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. Jburns

    Jburns Active Member

    Jan 19, 2009
    Yeah - I agree. Bikes and snowmobiles are around for a few years, then the plastic changes....
  5. 2B

    2B Very Active Member

    May 5, 2011
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. autoexebat

    autoexebat Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    I figured they were full of crap.
  7. signbrad

    signbrad Member

    Jun 15, 2014
    Kansas City

    When you say “template,” I assume you are talking about the collections of scale drawings of vehicles that many of us use to produce proofs for clients, right?
    You are asking if these drawings are protected by copyright.

    The list of things that can be protected by copyright is a long one. Here are a few things, according to the US Copyright Act of 1976: “two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings, including architectural plans”

    Do the vector drawings in the vehicle collections not fit into this list? I believe they are two-dimensional works of graphic art. Could they not also be considered diagrams of a sort, or even technical drawings. They are all drawn to scale and (usually) are accurate representations of the makes and models of the vehicles. The pickup truck outlines, for example, are not just generic truck outlines. The Fords are the Fords and the Chevys are Chevys.
    They are in “fixed form” as digital files, a requirement for copyright protection. And they are represented as original by the vendors.

    They seem to fit the requirements for protectable works of art (the government's term is “works of authorship”).

    What is Copyright?

    Copyright protection is actually a bundle of five rights.

    If I take a photograph of my dad's antique truck, I alone have the right to duplicate the photo in any way. This is the right to reproduce a work, and is the most elementary power of copyright.

    If I make a watercolor rendering of the truck from the photograph I am exercising another of the five rights—the right to make a derivative of the original work. Or I may scan the picture and draw over it in Adobe Illustrator to make a vector file that I can then doctor up with fills and gradients to make a realistic-looking illustration. Both the vector file and the printed illustration would each be derivative works. A derivative work is a separately copyrightable work.

    What if I remove the fills and I only have the line drawing? Is it still protected? Yes.

    If I decide to print an image of the truck on T-shirts and sell them at car shows and in car magazines, this distribution of multiple copies of the original work to the public is another of the five copyrights—the right to publish the work.

    The other two rights connected to copyright protection are the right to publicly perform a work and the right to publicly display a work. These two rights don't have a lot of impact on the field of sign work, but are important in other fields, such as music, theater, fine art, etc.

    The idea behind copyright protection is simple. It is to give the original author exclusive control over his or her work of authorship. Copyright protection is embedded in the US Constitution, so it is Federal law in the United States.
    Copyright can be viewed as the granting of an exclusive monopoly over a creation to the author, for life. Actually, copyright protection for a work in the US lasts the lifetime of the author—plus 70 years.

    What is not protectable under copyright law?

    Some things are not protectable: words, short phrases, names, titles, slogans; familiar symbols or designs; variations of typographic ornamentation or lettering (that means many logos cannot be protected by copyright); typeface designs cannot be protected by copyright, either, though the underlying software (the font that you download and install on your hard drive) can be protected. In other words, the appearance, the design, of a typestyle is not protected, but the unique digital code that may produce that typestyle in ink or vinyl is copyrightable.

    Other things not copyrightable: blank forms, such as time cards, graph paper, account books, diaries, blank checks, scorecards, address books, report forms, order forms—in other words, things that are designed just for recording or holding information and do not in themselves convey information. Without information filled in, these forms don't really mean anything. It's true that somebody had to design the forms, a designer, but, still, their design is not protected.

    So what about the vehicle outline collections?

    Are they fill-in-the-blank forms, like a blank check? Or are they protectable works?

    Think—what if they were real photos instead of line drawings? Would we be as inclined to view them as not protectable? Actually, would it then not be obvious that they do have copyright protection? Or what if they were illustrations with color fills and gradients? The fact that they are line drawings should have no bearing on the question of whether they are protected. It's true they are referred to as “templates,” but this term is what the vendors choose to call them. That doesn't necessarily mean that the US Copyright Office views them the same as “blank forms.”

    I have not seen a collection of these drawings that does not have a prominent copyright notice. And that doesn't mean that they have applied for a registration for each individual drawing. At 55 dollars per registration that would be costly. More likely they register the collections as a whole, as compilations. It still protects everything in the compilation.

    I am inclined to believe that the copyright protection claimed for these vehicle outline collections is legitimate.

    Of course, these images and files are constantly pirated by people who don't want to pay for them, just as fonts and other software are pirated all the time.
    Would one of the vehicle outline companies litigate over someone stealing a drawing? Probably not. But if someone copied an entire collection to sell they probably would sue them, because they would have a chance of being awarded for damages. Suing for copyright infringement is expensive and it can only be done in Federal court in the US. Few companies do it lightly.
    Piracy is an unfortunate occupational hazard for companies that provide artwork.

    Brad in Kansas City


    If you want a good overview of intellectual property, this is a good book, even though some things in it are slightly dated.
    It is one of the textbooks used in the paralegal course at a local college here.
    Vehicle Outline collections are not mentioned in the book. It would be interesting to get a lawyer's opinion on the collections.

    Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights 2nd Edition
    by Richard Stim

    Last edited: May 11, 2018
  8. ewded

    ewded Member

    Aug 28, 2017
    Everything YOU design belongs to YOU. You have the copyright without having to register anywhere. People register their designs to have an easier proof when they sue somebody, but the procedure is just too long and the compensation you can get depends on how much the thief made using your work. In most cases just doesn't worth the hassle.

    I sell on ebay and etsy, and when I see my design is being copied or stolen I just ask them to take it down or I'll report them, they usually take it down. If not... well I just wait. I see their shop is shut down within a few months as somebody who is bigger than me takes another step (like Marvel if you try to sell superman shirts)

    The website you're talking about just makes things up to make you stay away from copying their design.
  9. Frankcw

    Frankcw New Member

    Mar 25, 2014
    Bryan Ohio, USA
    This is an interesting question. I would talk to a lawyer who handles copyright cases. Normally you can get a 5 min phone conversation for free or a half hour consultation for minimal cost. They are always looking for new clients. They will be able to tell you the ins and outs of the potential case and how the law actually works not a street law interpretation. They will also be looking at the resources of potential violators. If it's a good case they may take it on contingency or you may want to talk to lawyers until you find one who will. Without a lawyer you can't do anything about violations so why not start there.
    If you look into this I would be interested in hearing what you find out
  10. GAC05

    GAC05 Major Contributor

    Dec 27, 2005
    Guam USA
    The most important thing to remember when dealing with all things legal:
    If you enter into an agreement with someone named Stormy do not expect the contract to last for an extended length of time.
  11. HDvinyl

    HDvinyl Trump 2020

    Nov 20, 2008
    halfway house.
    Probably cost him $13k per second.
  12. autoexebat

    autoexebat Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    I'm talking about a blank design / Template. I guess I need to post a picture so you guys know what I'm talking about exactly. From what I am told .. THIS ( Blank template ) ( THAT THEY SELL ) is copyright. But they sell it for you to put a design on and sell ... so how does that make it copyright when they are providing it to you to sell ...? see what I mean? yamaha raptor 90 template 2009 2015.jpg
  13. signbrad

    signbrad Member

    Jun 15, 2014
    Kansas City
    Are these really blank forms?

    Are these silhouette images really blank forms according to the US Copyright Office's definition of a blank form?
    Each silhouette shape appears to be an original work of art (authorship). Each image is a one-of-a-kind shape that differs from the next based on which part of the vehicle is being depicted, and the shapes are not simple. Each image grouping is also different, based on the make and model of the vehicle.
    A designer custom-created each one of these images individually, perhaps based on photos or a large number of accurate field measurements, or both. Further, the underlying software for each image will be a piece of unique code.

    By the definitions of the US Copyright Office, these drawings would seem to fit the bill for copyrightable works.
    Of course, I am not a lawyer, so my opinion is not valid for anything.

    One way to find out for sure if a vehicle template collection is protected by copyright would be to apply for a registration for such a collection. A copyright registration is relatively inexpensive and can be done online. Another way to find out would be to find an existing registration for a template collection that is already recorded with the US Copyright Office. A chat with an intellectual property lawyer on the subject would render a professional opinion, but an actual recorded registration would remove all doubt.

    Here is Circular No.33, which briefly describes things that are not protected by copyright.

    End-use does not necessarily determine whether a work is protected by copyright

    Just because the drawings are called "templates" does not prove they fit the description of the government term "blank forms." If the images qualified for copyright protection when they were first created, then they are still protected. It shouldn't matter how they are used or what they are called later.

    Selling and licensing are two different things

    The companies that provide these images to sign makers are not actually selling them to you. They are licensing them to you. The licenses almost always include restrictions on their use. They may limit the number of computers you may install the software to, for example, or the number of times you may use the images. They will usually prohibit the "resale," of the images, that is, sub-licensing the software, or even parts of it, to others. So, they don't want you to make a copy of the CD and sell it or give it to someone else, just as with any other software.

    In other words, when you download these templates, you are not really buying them. You are, in effect, renting them. The "landlord" still owns the property, even though it's intellectual property rather than real estate.

    The licensing rules for this type of artwork are often found on a company's website, or provided to you when you obtain a CD or when you license and download a vector file from them. The licensing agreement can vary considerably, depending on the company. But basically, they all lay out the rights they are granting you when you license their software.

    Here is an example of part of one online licensing agreement for vehicle templates:


    Licensing Agreement
    This product is protected by international copyright laws and treaties that pertain to computer software. This software is licensed for the exclusive use of the original purchaser at a single location on a single computer. You may not use, copy, modify, or transfer the software, or any copy, in whole or in part, except as expressly provided in this Licensing Agreement. You may not sub-license, assign, or transfer the license of the software without prior written consent. We authorize you to make backup copies of the software for your archives, only for the sole purpose of protecting your investment from loss. You may not copy, modify, adapt, translate, or create derivative works based on the written documentation required with this product. If you plan to use this software on an electronic network, please contact us regarding volume discounts and site licenses.


    Some licensing agreements are much more detailed than this, spelling out in detail what uses they will and will not allow for their images.


  14. KMC

    KMC Graphic Artist

    Feb 12, 2018
    if you purchase the template you can make the design from it and sell the design
    BUT you can not sell the template, you can't copyright a template or pattern which you sell as it voids it, if they find someone selling their template then they can go after that person or company for loss of business (same rules applied for sewing patterns etc they all say on them in the fine print personal use only but its not the case you can make the outfit and sell it)
  15. EffectiveCause

    EffectiveCause Premium Subscriber

    May 21, 2015
    Denton, TX
    Seems to me like this would fall under the familiar design category, which can't be copyrighted, as they used the familiar design of the Raptor to create the template. You can't really call that an original work.
  16. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    There is a lot of work that goes into making good decal templates, since you are making a flat (2D) shape to make a flat graphic that will have to be formed to a 3D surface on the bike. The template is copyrighted. You cannot buy (license) it from the vendor and then sell templates to others using their files. When you use the template in the manner it has been licensed to you, to design your own graphics and then cut them out using the template, you are not violating the copyright license, because you created your own design to fit in the template they licensed to you. And you do not violate the license when you sell the graphics you made to your end customer. It's really simple. People like to make a mess of mumbo jumbo about things, when they are not complicated at all.
  17. shoresigns

    shoresigns Very Active Member

    Nov 1, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    Not entirely true. Copyright applies to art and some designs, given that they must meet a minimum threshold of originality/creativity. This is why font designs cannot be copyrighted unless they are very decorative – letterform designs on their own did not meet the minimum threshold for originality when tested in a US court of law. Fortunately, it was determined that the software coding of the font does qualify for copyright, which affords type designers some protection for their work.

    So when you're designing simple sign layouts such as traffic signs, don't assume that they qualify for copyright protection, because they probably don't.

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