A few months ago I made a logo for a customer on Brandsupply. Brandsupply is a site that lets a customer upload their ideas for a logo, and then choose the logo they want from the design that a bunch of designers created for them.
I got the idea for the logo from Shutterstock. If I would ever get sued in the future, will I be the one who’ll have to pay? The customer doesn’t have any way of my contacting me, except for mailing me. What would be the smartest thing to do?
The customer already said (before even choosing my logo) that if there ever has to be paid money for copyright, the designer will have to pay. But he simply typed this in a message; so of course it doesn’t mean much. Can I do anything to prevent trouble?
If you have copied something from a design on Shutterstock and it is in distinctive enough to be recognised then you are in danger of being pursued for copyright infringement.
However, Shutterstock images are sold as royalty free for commercial use, so all you need to do is purchase the image that the copied / used as inspiration on behalf of your customer (or if they purchase the rights to use it themselves) then you should be covered. If you have a license for using the image then you can also, adapt, recolour, rework, etc…
You’re not protected by any kind of anonymity here, if Shutterstock’s legal team get in touch with the freelancing website that you use, I’m willing to bet that your details will be handed over in a heartbeat. It probably even says that in the terms and conditions that you (read and) signed.
Based on the comments below, I think it’s worth clarifying some of the assumptions that I have made when formulating my answer. Firstly, I’m assuming that the company name forms the main part of the logo and the copied element is just styling or embellishment (swirls, stripes, text treatment, etc). Secondly, I’m assuming that the copied part is not an image or recognisable photo of people. Finally, I’m assuming that the logo does not form part of a product that is resold. That would require a completely different kind of license. If these assumptions are correct then the answer stands.
As others have said… I’m not a lawyer.