President Donald Trump
promoted an independently produced campaign video via his Twitter feed on Wednesday afternoon.
Thank you for the support as we MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! pic.twitter.com/qKgwRMSgcf
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2019
The discovery, however, that the logo used at in end screen title card features a lion illustration that was also used by a Dutch Twitter account suspended for promoting White Supremacy? Well, that merits a closer look.
The use of the same logo appears to have been first reported by writer Dustin Giebel and former Snopes Managing Editor Brooke Binkowski, who revealed the similarity via a series of tweets:
2019 / 2016 pic.twitter.com/0oWGl0U3DE
— Brooke Binkowski (@brooklynmarie) August 29, 2019
Binkowski then followed with a link to an archived version of a now-deleted tweet by VDARE, an anti-immigration group criticized for promoting White Supremacy. As one can see in the embedded image below, the lion logo used is the same:
Binkowski’s discovery started something of a crowd-sourced research project on Twitter, which led to the following claim using research photo search Tin Eye:
Tin-eye shows this image first being used by a suspended account, @keksec_org, on 3/13/16.
That account was a Dutch white supremacists that Trump personally retweeted back in 2015:https://t.co/oLKTKKNTEc
— Not John Conness, but he gave a good speech once (@puckthecat1) August 29, 2019
Logos and Copyright
Copyright is a little stricter in the thresholds it applies. For anything to be eligible for copyright protection, it has to be at a certain level of creativity. If your logo is going to be protected by copyright, it has to be artistic enough that it is considered a legitimately creative work of expression. The thing about most logos, however, is that they do not reach that threshold.
Copyright is incapable of covering such things as the design, colors, and name of the logo, and so most logos are too simple by copyright standards to be protected by copyright. There are, however, some logos that are ornate enough to be copyrightable.
That’s where the real confusion lies when it comes to logos. There are plenty of logos that qualify for protection by both copyright and trademark. There have been many cases that touched upon this, such as the Omega vs CostCo case, where a logo that was stamped on a watch was protected by copyright. Importing the watch would, therefore, be an infringement on the copyright.
If a logo is considered artistic enough to be copyrightable, apart from its consideration as a means with which to identify a business, then it can be copyright protected. The two rights are not mutually exclusive and so anyone can both trademark and copyright their logo.
If you create a logo that is similar to another design, you may be violating the owner’s copyright. If another individual or business has registered the copyright and brings a lawsuit, a judge would base his decision on “substantial similarity” and the “observer test.” These are standards, used by many courts in copyright cases, determine whether an ordinary observer would overlook any minor differences between the works and regard them as the same. Using elements of the original logo that are unoriginal or not able to be copyrighted — such as letters, numbers, names, words, typefaces, or familiar shapes like crosses, shields, and pyramids — would not, by itself, represent a violation of copyright.