The fat cartoon chef in this logo is possibly copyrighted:
It is also widely available on the Web for download. My question is this: What are the rules for using such artwork in logos? If the artwork is copyrighted, then the logo cannot be copyrighted. So if you use it in a logo, do you tell your client, "By the way, you'll never be able to trademark your logo"?
Any help would be appreciated.
If the answer is so simple, why would such a huge company risk using it in a logo for a major university? This is what I don't get. Does altering the various layers (fill, stroke, etc.) get you off the hook? At what point does the image become so altered that it becomes your own?
Does the USC actually use such a logo? Those shown in the link seem to be just drafts.
Rather than altering something to a certain/minimum degree with possible loss of creativeness and credibility and maybe with legal issues, it is better to create your own, maybe inspired by something else that is distinctly different, and preferably unique of course.
The inevitable pitfalls of using crowd-source design. Chances are the author of the piece doesn't know or care about any legal issues, they merely want to "win" the bid, contest, or whatever it is.
If the company incurs legal issues, they'll go back to "logodesignguru" to complain which will in-turn promptly pull out their web site agreement stating they are not responsible and the original author will need to answer for the issues. But by then the author is gone, or is merely some random web-alias never to really be found.
You get what you pay for. They may have gotten a logo for $99... but the legal fees could be in the thousands, not to mention the need to rebrand after an issue.
The long and short answer Jacob has already given... it's infringement and if you didn't create it... don't use it in a logo.
I've done some past work in mycroburst, which runs logodesignguru, they're all the same. Much like scott put it, spec work is a nightmare and ridiculous. You want something original you're gonna have to pay for it. What happens in and around crowd sourcing sites particularly mycroburst is that their staff cares little about copyright, although their transfer agreement has all sorts of formal blah blah that means little or nothing to some designer living in thailand!
As for infringement,i know a few from these crowd sourcing sites that ended up in the soup, 1.for infringement, 2. for poor work quality.
If the artwork is copyrighted then i guess you better stay away from it than incorporating it into anything. If it's a CC licence, you ask 100 times the original author before you even bother using it. My advice is things should be done from scratch, not nit picking elements from here and there and putting it together to make up a logo. When designing logos, you really need to look into what's infringement vs what can become infringement. Also copyright vs trademark
I agee with Jacob and Scott and wouldnt either but: consider this.
Depending on the royalty free stock piece of artworks release info and conditions, will determine if how and where it can be used. BUT: The new owner of what he may think is an original logo will have trademark issues (if not on registration - somewhere down the line) ... also if the artwork release restricts "print" quantity (eg up to 15000 units) and he prints it on 120 000 pies he is also infringing on the license, albeit unknowingly...
so... beeeg nono in Corporate ID.
As is also implied in the other answers, it is a question of (in) whom you trust.
If the answer is so simple, why would such a huge company risk using it in a logo for a major university?
A few years ago, everyone was reassured by the question:
If subprime lending is so risky, why would the leading credit rating agencies rate such mortgage loans as AAA?