September 28, 2021

Are Using Custom Social Media Buttons Legal?

Custom blog designs are known to offer styles and colors for social media buttons (like Facebook and Instagram), but are these actually legal?  How about custom sets of Pinterest, Twitter or YouTube buttons?  I’ve been thinking about a new blog design (what I have now is one of the “standard” templates, although one I really like) and I’ve been looking at a lot of blogs, particularly teacher blogs of my fellow TpT’ers.  Most of the custom blogs I’ve seen have stylized social media icons to fit the design of the blog, and they look great.  So I started poking around and looking for custom buttons to help with my own custom blog design and I found a lot out there (most of which are free).  But at the same time, I also found some articles about these social media icons infringing on copyright laws, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

I guess I should say that I’m not a lawyer and this blog post doesn’t contain any real legal advice – just me observation and opinion.  But when it comes to social media, most of these companies have policies against modifying their logos.  In other words, their logos are their “brands” and are trademarked, so they have a legal right to control how their logo is represented.

Let’s take a look at some of these guidelines.

Twitter:

Twitter seems to be one of the logos I see most often changed – like the lower case “t” in a blue box for example … but this is NOT their official logo.  Their trademarked logo is just a bird in a box.  And Twitter’s guidelines not only talk about the logo, but also extend to their name and just about anything else related to what they do:

“The Twitter marks include, but are not limited to, the Twitter name, logo, the term “Tweet” and any word, phrase, image, or other designation that identifies the source or origin of any of Twitter’s products. Do not modify or alter the marks or use them in a confusing way, including suggesting sponsorship or endorsement by Twitter, or in a way that confuses Twitter with another brand. Use our official and unmodified Twitter bird to represent Twitter.”

 Don’t:

  • Use speech bubbles or words around the bird
  • Rotate or change the direction of the bird
  • Animate the bird
  • Flock the bird with other birds or other creatures
  • Change the color of the bird
  • Overprint or obstruct any part of the bird
  • Anthropomorphize the bird
  • Add special effects to the bird
  • Use old versions or any other marks or logos to represent our brand

Link: Twitter brand assets

So basically, Twitter is saying you cannot modify their logo and you cannot change the color of the bird.  Here is a quick visual guide to their logo:

The-Twitter-Bird-Icon.jpg
Instagram:
Instagram-Glyph-Camera-Icon.jpg
Instagram is unique because it has two versions of its icon. The “Multi-Color Camera” is instantly recognizable, since it’s literally the mobile app icon. The simpler “Glyph” is actually the default icon that a brand should use. Instagram states that the Multi-Color Camera should only be utilized if you are encouraging users to download the app. Lastly, Instagram permits the Glyph’s color to be changed as needed, making it the only major social media company I know to allow this.

Link: Instagram brand resources

Pinterest:

Pinterest-Badge-Icon.jpg

The Pinterest icon, or the “badge” as they call it, is different in that it’s a circle instead of the normal rounded square. Hence anything that isn’t a circle is automatically the wrong icon.

Link: Pinterest brand guidelines

Facebook:

What Facebook calls the “f” Logo is likely the most incorrectly used social media icon on the internet. As a rule of thumb, the correct icon is one solid blue with a white “f” that bleeds off of the box. And the “f” is NOT centered in the box.  If there are multiple shades of blue, a shadow, or a gradient, it’s likely the wrong icon.  Facebook also allows a white “shadow” of the box with a transparent “f” which allows the color of the background to show through.

Link: Facebook brand assets

Periscope:

Periscope seems to be the latest craze … but they too have guidelines regarding their logo.

Link: Periscope press assets

Bloglovin: 

And do you know what the official Bloglovin button is?

Yeah, A black square with a B and an apostrophe.  Not really graphic-friendly, and I haven’t seen any sites that use this correctly.  More often than not, I see something like this:

And this would be wrong.

Link: Bloglovin Widgets

So, what about Teachers Pay Teachers?

Teachers Pay Teachers

I couldn’t find any guidelines on their website so I decided to contact them and see what they’d say, and here is their response:

Thanks so much for writing in!

It’s awesome to see this kind of excitement and passion for TpT. As you may know, using the TpT logo and name the right way is super important to protect our brand. So, if you do want to move forward with this idea, we have some guidelines for you to follow:

– Don’t use the TpT name or logo in a way that would confuse someone into thinking that a product, item, or anything else is made or endorsed by Teachers Pay Teachers.
– Don’t use the TpT logo or name in a way that would confuse someone into thinking that a website is run or endorsed by Teachers Pay Teachers.
– Don’t alter, stretch, condense, overlay, stylize, or otherwise skew our logo images in any way.
– Any product you create using our name or logo should be for fun or for promotion of your TpT store.
– Anything with the TpT name or logo should be shared freely or sold only to recoup costs of production.

I hope this clarifies. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything else I can help with.

Sincerely,
Team TpT

 Here is the TPT logo:

And they have this one without the text:

 

 

 

 

So, what will happen if I use a different logo for my buttons?

Well, these companies could choose to sue you.  Legally speaking, they own their logos, they have every right to control how they’re presented, and they COULD choose to sue you if they wanted.  But unless you’re making money from modified logos, you’re probably okay.

Although these companies COULD sue anyone violating these rules, they probably wouldn’t. First, I think these rules are primarily in place for two reasons:

  1. To regulate how their logos appear in marketing campaigns. So when an advertisement on TV says “follow us on Twitter”, they want to regulate how that logo appears. These are big, paid marketing campaigns I’m talking about.
  2. To prevent people from making money off of custom, modified versions of their logos.

So, I think if you are a blogger and don’t have a website that is making money but has some modified social media icons in your sidebar to match your design, the big companies probably won’t care.

If you’re selling modified logos on Teachers Pay Teachers or Etsy, they’re probably more likely to care because then you’re making money off of their trademark.  One seller on Etsy had her store taken down because of a product she was selling which had modified social media icons.  Here’s her story:

A Lesson In Social Media Icons & Trademark

But when it comes to you and your little blog with color-coordinated, matching buttons, there’s a small amount of risk in using modified logos, but probably not something that could cost you your house. Let’s say Pinterest decides to go after people who have modified their logo. Their first step probably won’t be to sue you. Instead, they would probably first send you a cease and desist letter which says something like, “Please stop, you’re violating our policies.” So then you get the letter and change out your icons.

So, if you have different logo buttons on your blog, what should you do?

I’m not recommending that you ignore the law, which states you’re not allowed to modify these images. All I’m really saying is that YES you’re not allowed to modify them, BUT so many people do. The odds of you getting sued if you’re a just a blogger are extremely low. The odds of you getting sued without first getting a cease and desist letter are even lower.

But if you have a set of custom buttons for sale (or are thinking of making such a set), DON’T.

It’s not worth the risk.

So, for ease of use, I’ve put together a Freebie product in my Teachers Pay Teachers store with the official trademarked logos.  Here’s the link to the product:
Social Media Icons Clipart 




And, I guess I’ll be sticking with this blog design for a while …

Cheers!

Kriss

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