Public Domain

Sign Prophet

New Member
Is it legal to use artwork that falls within public domain or do you have to get permission to use it?

I am new to the business end of signs and Just dont want to get into trouble. Any help you guys give is greatly appreciated.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
As far as I know it is.

The question is how will you know it is in the public domain. The only thing for certain would be artwork which has been created by government.

So for example, if you visit a US government website and find a flag you like, then it would be safe to assume it is in the public domain. But if you open a file included with CorelDRAW of a US flag, it was created by an artist and is subject to normal copyright protection and the license that covers the content of CorelDRAW.

If you find an engraving done in the 1800's you might assume it is public domain but if where you found it is a book published in 1998, then it is covered by the copyright of that book.

In most situations you are better served to license artwork from others and work within the terms of the license or to create your own artwork from scratch.


New Member
It is my understanding that clipart and images within Corel are royalty free.
Hope so 'cause I've used some of them commercially.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
It is my understanding that clipart and images within Corel are royalty free.
Hope so 'cause I've used some of them commercially.

Royalty Free is a term used to describe the type of licensing of the clipart or software. It means that under the provisions of the license no additional payment or royalty is required of the licensee under the terms of use of the agreement. That is substantially different than public domain.

The terms of use may also exclude certain uses or require a royalty under certain conditions. For example, all clipart supplied with CorelDRAW is licensed for personal use and excludes commercial use. That is one of the most widely ignored licensing restrictions I've ever encountered.

Most royalty free clipart will still require a separate license for images used as the primary art for a mass produced product or one that is shown in a catalog in print or on the internet and royalties will be part of that agreement.

Most royalty free licensing agreements will forbid the use of an image where it is the primary focal point of the product or publication or where it is all or part of a trademarked or copyrighted work such as a logo.


New Member
Hey Fred, I was gonna post this last nite..just then the power went out 'cause of a big wind storm here in the Shuswap. I actually got to bed early last This is from the Corel website as of today.


Corel products contain numerous clipart, photo images and sample content such as forms, templates, Paint Shop Pro “tubes” or similar items (collectively referred to as the "Images") which are either owned by Corel or licensed from a third-party. As a user of Corel products you are free to use, modify and publish the Images as you wish subject to the restrictions set out below. If you are uncertain as to whether your intended use is in compliance with the Guidelines set out below, Corel recommends that you seek the advice of your own attorney or legal counsel. Corel will not provide you with an opinion as to whether your use is in compliance with these Guidelines.

2.1 YOU MAY, subject to any restrictions set out below:
(i) incorporate any Image(s) into your own original work and publish, display and distribute your work in any media, provided you include a copyright notice in your work reflecting on the copyright ownership of both you and Corel as follows:
"Copyright (c) 200__ [your name] and its licensors. All rights reserved."; and
(ii) make one (1) copy of the Image(s) for backup or archival purposes.

(i) resell, sublicense or otherwise make available the Image(s) for use or distribution separately or detached from a product or web page. For example, the Image(s) may be used as part of a web page design, but not be made available for downloading separately or in a format designed or intended for permanent storage or re-use by others;
(ii) provide the Image(s) to third parties or permit the use of the Image(s) by third parties separately or as part of any other product, however, third parties may be provided with copies of the Image(s) (including digital files) as part of a work product;
(iii) create scandalous, obscene, defamatory or immoral works using the Image(s) nor use the Image(s) for any other purpose which is prohibited by law;
(iv) use or permit the use of the Image(s) or any part thereof as a trademark or service mark, or claim any proprietary rights of any sort in the Image(s) or any part thereof;
(v) use any of the Images related to identifiable individuals or entities for any commercial purpose or in a manner which suggests their association with or endorsement of any product or service;
(vi) use the Image(s) in electronic format, on-line or in multimedia applications unless the Image(s) are incorporated for viewing purposes only and no permission is given to download and/or save the Image(s) for any reason;
(vii) rent, lease, sublicense or lend the Image(s), or a copy thereof, to another person or legal entity. You may, however, transfer all your license to use the Image(s) to another person or legal entity, provided that (i) you transfer the Image(s) and this License, including all copies (except copies incorporated into your work product as permitted under this License), to such person or entity, (ii) that you retain no copies, including copies stored on a computer or other storage device, and (iii) the receiving party agrees to be bound by the terms and conditions of this License; or
(viii) use any Image(s) except as expressly permitted by this License.

The national and municipal insignia contained in this product are protected by various laws against misuse. Generally speaking, all logos, insignia, patches, seals, flags and coats of arms are for official use only. It is your responsibility to obey all national and international laws regulating display of the insignia, seals, flags and coats of arms contained herein.

SO: I'm thinking that when I use a Corel image, modified or not, I need to acknowledge their ownership(somewhere) within the sign, or whatever, I provide. I could do the car-dealer fine print thing...a tiny refferal to them in extremely fine print. Like you's one of the most widely ignored licensing restrictions.
Do your clipart offerings work the same way?
It also makes me aware that I (we) should not attempt to use ready-made images( or parts thereof) from Corel as a company logo for any entity.Part 2.2-IV
and to let you know what can happen on the penalty side of this. if it is determined that you used a image improperly lets say something you thought was "royalty free" but under the terms of use it could not be used in commercial advertising / mass production or whatever...the damage has already been done. you can not just collect all of the product and throw it in the garbage (but any product you have will most likely be confiscated) they just impose a fine well in excess (from what i have seen) of what you would have paid to use the image with permission in the first place per peice or just a large amount that the powers that be think justify the compensation is UGLY...i have seen two businesses face this one resulted in bankruptcy the other took a good 3 yrs to recover. play by the rules it just is not worth it and ignorance is not a excuse

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
Ken - here is a link to my licensing page. You will find specifically that we do grant rights to licensees for commercial, for profit applications. In addition, we also grant rights to use our images on a local area network which is not allowed by many other licenses.

Most of the limitations we impose are to protect against unauthorized distribution; any activity that would encumber or cloud the original artist's ownership rights; and to provide fair compensation to ourselves and our artists should any image be used beyond a reasonable amount to generate income for the producer as in being used as a catalog item and sold over and over.

The intent of any artist or publisher in providing images for royalty free use is that they be used to enhance your designs ... not to be the entire design or the major part of it. And it is very difficult to cover all situations in a licensing agreement. A notable exception would be a collection such as our Plotter Art Voodoo Graphix Extreme Collection. It is, of course, a vehicle graphics collection and its very nature is that its images will normally be the entire design when produced and installed. What is allowed is for the images to be used in production at one location where they are also to be installed. What is not allowed, in this example, is to use them in a catalog to market them as kits without first entering into a royalty agreement with us.

In summary, the purpose of most licensing agreements is to provide a reasonable package of rights to the buyer for him or her to receive adequate value while reserving other rights to retain the value of the body of work and to setup procedures for purchasing additional rights when a buyer has additional needs beyond those granted in the EULA.

A great example of this is the licensing offered by Here, standard licensing is offered and enhanced licensing is also offered at considerably higher prices. If you take the time to read the differences, you will see that the standard license is not adequate for most commercial applications.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
I can't imagine who would be able to claim any creative rights at this point. That being the case, it would be in the public domain.


New Member
Hey Fred do you know if the POW MIA flag is public domain? I had a call this morning about doing a few for a Veteran.


New Member
I did find this but nothing offical................

To the Citizens of Ponca City,
On Tuesday, May 6, the Ponca City Board of Commissioners passed a request to fly the POW-MIA Flag at Centennial Plaza. This request was put before them by Ponca City's Veterans Service Organizations. We wish to give the citizens of Ponca City information concerning this National Flag.
Since its inception, this flag, which was designed on behalf of American POW-MIA's from the Vietnam War, has come to represent our missing countrymen from all wars. The POW-MIA Flag has been ruled "Public Domain", as is the American Flag; therefore, it cannot be claimed as sole property by any organization or individual.
On Aug. 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, which recognized the POW-MIA Flag and designated it "as the symbol of our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner and missing in action. Thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation." Here are some statistics concerning the POW-MIAs: WWII-78,000; Korean War-8,000; Vietnam War-2,200; Granada-4; Desert Storm-52, and Somalia-2. These figures are compiled from the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense.
We would also like to point out that within the past four years, live sightings have been documented from WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The POW-MIAs,. at present, number 53 from our State of Oklahoma.
On May 26, Memorial Day, a flag raising ceremony will be held at the Plaza at City Hall at 1:30 p.m. We encourage Ponca City's Veterans and Citizens to attend.
Lee Keyes