Q+A :: Church Copyright Law for Logos

QUESTION:
Q+AAre the logos on your website copyrighted? We are looking for a logo for the church I attend and found one on the site we really like. Is it something we can use?
- Jaime :: Wisconsin

ANSWER
You may absolutely not use the logos highlighted on Church Relevance’s top church logos list. Here is why:

  1. Copyright Law (indicates authorship/creation)
    The logos are copyrighted and using them is illegal. Copyright gives the creator of an original work certain exclusive rights on the usage of the work. Logo designers have federal copyright as soon as the logo is created. The logo does not need a copyright notice or to be registered.
  2. Trademark Law (indicates origin)
    The logos are trademarked at varying degrees and using them is illegal. A trademark gives its owner exclusive rights to a specific name, symbol, logo, or combination of these items.
  3. It misrepresents you.
    Your logo should communicate one or a few unique qualities about your church. Copying another church’s logo is almost certainly like pursuing another church’s unique calling. There is a good chance you would misrepresent yourself or at least not reach your full branding potential.
  4. It misrepresents the other church.
    If you copy another church’s logo, you dilute their brand by associating your church brand with their logo. It also risks confusion, which may, particularly on the Internet, blend the two churches’ true identities or messages.

Ideally, a church should have its own custom logo. Good custom branding can be a powerful thing.

Of course, legally using a high quality premade logo does not mean your church will fail. In fact, I have seen many successful church sub-ministries share a logo. Oneighty (Tulsa, OK) used to franchise their youth ministry brand (e.g., FL, KS, TN, WI).

The key is to have a high quality logo that reflects your brand and is used with consistency throughout your church communications.

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert so please do not take my opinion or any opinions in the comments as legal advice.

For Discussion:
- Did I miss anything?
– What do you think about using another church’s logo?