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I recently took a photo of a guitar. The logo of the company that makes the guitar is not shown in the photo. Do I need a property release from the manufacturer or the owner to sell it as a stock photo?

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    Is it just "a guitar" (i.e. one of a million units of a particular model), or is it some rock star's super-duper customized one of a kind guitar? I could see the latter maybe needing permission from the owner... But, in either case, perhaps it would be best to consult with a lawyer familiar with your local laws...
    – twalberg
    Oct 11 at 16:04
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    It's just a guitar
    – manarinian
    Oct 11 at 16:13
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    Nobody here is a lawyer and it depends on at least two things, countries (yours and the stock photo companty's) and the picture (mostly, could you have done a similar photo with another guitar, or is this specific guitar/model important)?
    – xenoid
    Oct 11 at 20:32
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In the case of a picture of a product, the potential issue is trademark infringement (passing off). And sometimes the shape or some other aspect is also trademarked... e.g. both Fender and Gibson headstock shapes are trademarked (see Lawsuit Guitars); and the Gibson Les Paul, SG, and other body shapes are also trademarked (among many other things)... so it may not be only the brand logo that is of concern.

You never need a release to **sell an image as a photographer; it is the final use of the image that determines if a release is required, and it is the final user who needs the release... i.e. the user who buys it from the stock agency needs the release. Logistics dictate that it is normally the photographer who initially obtains the release (which must be transferable in this case).

If an image might infringe copyright/trademark, and there is no release that can be transferred with it, then the stock agency may list the image as being for editorial use only (which falls under the fair use/fair dealing exclusions); such as this example on ShutterStock.

enter image description here

Alamy presents it a little different by disabling commercial license sales, and changing "website" to "editorial website" license (personal use is always allowed). However; the "magazines & books" license could be a little erroneous... incidental use of one image in a magazine/book would be fine; but aggregate use in a photo book could be problematic.

enter image description here

In any case, it is not their responsibility to ensure the end user has the appropriate release for the final use... they don't actually have to tell you what you can/can't use it for, nor categorize/disable the sale (but it is good business).


**there are some situations/countries/etc where you may need a release/permission in order to initially take a picture, or to make the picture public if it is of an individual. But I am assuming a legally acquired image of a guitar as described.

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    I know that the OP is talking about a stock photo (which implies that the purchaser may intend it for commercial use), but in a more general sense would a photographer need a release if they were simply selling framed prints of that same guitar directly to the public? (I know that this probably could be/is a separate question)
    – Peter M
    Oct 12 at 16:04
  • @PeterM, A release would not be required because the final use of the image (private framed display) would not constitute trademark infringement. However, if you were selling multiple copies of a calendar, which was made up solely of images of trademarked items of one brand (i.e. all Gibson Les Pauls), then you could potentially get into trademark infringement. Oct 12 at 16:25
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DISCLAIMER: IANAL and so this answer does constitute legal advice and is purely an opinion.

No. There is no case I can think of where you would be required to present a release for an ordinary object. It is, as far as we know from your comment, simply a guitar that is one among many nearly identical productions. It would be the same answer for most objects.

Releases are generally required when a commercial photo includes something that is uniquely identifiable and recognizable. This is why sometimes a property release is required when a famous building is included as one of the main elements of a photograph.

Even though the guitar is the creation of a company. The photo you are making of it is a derivative work. It is your own vision that makes your photo different from other photos of a guitar. You would own the copyright on that photo unless it was made as a work-for-hire (where applicable by law) or would have otherwise given up rights by virtue of a contract.

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  • What defines a "commercial photo" in this case? Is it because it is being sold to still service (where usage is expected to be for advertising etc), or is it simply because the image is being sold?
    – Peter M
    Oct 12 at 16:07
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    @PeterM; "commercial" is related to the commercial market/marketing... either advertising (used in an ad), or as a commercial product (used on a mug). Oct 12 at 16:33
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If the guitar were on private property, then you may be liable for breach of privacy if there were other information in the shot. The more unique the guitar the more of an issue. If it is just an item for display in a shop that would be innocent use. Use your head to see if publication could be aproblem. Taking a shot of a guitar painted by an artist... would be a breach. Agiant guitar, work of art in public space is fair game

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