If you are a business owner, the chances are that you’ve had to deal with trademarking at some point. Most people are vaguely aware of Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright Law and Trademarking (is Taylor Swift filing ANOTHER copyright lawsuit?). But the fact that these laws extend into the basic print design of their flyers, for example, is lost on them.

I’ve seen this countless times at Printulu. Clients send in their design briefs with images they pulled straight from Google that they simply insist HAS to be on the artwork. Never mind that it’s usually some cringy stock photo (sometimes with the watermark still on it!)

Even worse, I’ve had clients who sent pictures they got off of Clipart and insisted that this… masterpiece… was their logo. Low-res and all!

Stock image of man smiling painfully with watermark still on it

The watermark clearly shows that this image is the property of someone else (in this case, 123RF.com).

Many people get away with it, especially when they’re running small businesses that fly mostly under the radar. But what if your business grows? What if the person who that image originally belongs to sees it? Does your small business really have the money to spare on battling a lawsuit now?

I’m guessing not. And since I am here to help you avoid a sad prison cell (and I also happen to be tired of dealing with low-res stolen images), I’ve compiled a list of useful websites that you can use to source your elements. 

But first, let’s define what a good designer is.

How do I know if my graphic designer knows what they’re doing?

There are a multitude of design rules and principles that any designer worth their salt knows about. More on that here: 10 Design Do’s and Don’ts You Don’t Want To Miss! (Designers Cringe at Number 3).

But the basics of it is this. A good graphic designer is someone who can provide your company with creative work that speaks to your overall brand and makes it understandable to your chosen audience. They give your business a face, a vibe, a personality, and make it functional to boot. 

Good graphic design is essential for your business’ long term success. But it can be as pretty as a picture – if it doesn’t adhere to South African laws, you’re in for very, very deep trouble.

Your graphic designer should know what these laws are. But on the off chance you find yourself wondering if you’ve chosen the right professional for the job, here’s a list of the basics that need to be followed.

Use free fonts that are 100% free

Some fonts will be downloadable, but specify that they may only be used for personal projects. This means that as soon as you’re using the font for something that might help you make money (such as a promotional flyer or business card), you could get in big trouble.

Text background
Here are a few of my personal favourite font websites:
  1. Google Fonts
  2. DaFont
  3. Font Squirrel
  4. FontSpace
  5. 1001 Fonts
  6. Fontspring
  7. Urban Fonts
  8. FontStruct
  9. Behance
  10. Abstract Fonts

Where to find high resolution, FREE images for your next design idea:

  1. Pexels
  2. Unsplash
  3. Reshot
  4. Pixabay
  5. Stockvault
  6. Morguefile
  7. Picjumbo
  8. Pikwizard
  9. Rawpixel

Simply type in a keyword (“woman smiling”, “family packing”, for example), and you’re good to go. A word of caution, though. Don’t simply right click on the image and save it to your PC. Use the provided download button to ensure that you’re downloading your image in optimal resolution. 

If this all sounds like a little too much hassle, remember that when you brief me, there is an option to add a link. Simply send me the link of the images you want on any of the above websites, and I can use them.

Free image of girl watching sunset

Why use stolen stock images when you can have amazing free photography instead? (Credit: Unsplash)

If you’re passionate about video, make sure you use royalty free music.

This is something that is slightly more well known, but people still tend to gloss over it. Trust me, you don’t want Taylor Swift on your heels because you used her latest hit single in your new promotional video.

Luckily this is one thing you don’t have to worry about when you’re just printing your promotional merchandise. But if you’re adding videos to your list, make sure you (or your graphic designer) are using these sites. Remember to check if you need to credit the artist, and you’re good to go.

  1. Bensound
  2. HookSounds
  3. No Copyright Sounds on YouTube
  4. Filmstro
  5. Purple Planet Music
  6. Free Music Archive

And if you don’t feel like following these laws?

I’ve talked a big game about how much trouble copyright infringement could spell for your business. But just how much trouble is a lot? The answer is no – it’s definitely not worth it. Take the 2009 Guess VS Gucci battle. Gucci sued Guess for infringing on a total of FIVE Gucci trademarks, including the use of similar logos.

Guess used many of Gucci’s distinctive marks, including a green and red stripe used on handbags, the repeating, inverted GG pattern, and the company’s use of brown and beige colours (mostly used in conjunction with diamond shape patterns).

Gucci won the case, and Guess ended up needing to pay $4.7 million. That translates into roughly R70 million. Do you have that lying around somewhere?

P.S. If you don’t have a design professional handy, Printulu offers top knotch in-house design services. And we know how to keep your business out of trouble and headed for huge success! If you’re not sure how to ask us to design for you, simply send an email to support@printulu.co.za and we’ll assist you in no time.

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