Monday, September 10, 2012

Can I Use Screenshots and Icons in Training Manual

Dear Rich: I have to write a training manual for Adobe Photoshop. I will use it to teach a community education class and will put it on a website for people to download. Can I use screen shots and icons from Photoshop in the book if I give credit to Adobe? I also have to write one for using Internet Explorer and Gmail. Can I use icons and screenshots from those programs as well? Yes, yes, and yes. Icons and file menus are generally not considered to be protectable under copyright law following the 1994 ruling in Apple Computer v. Microsoft. As for reproducing screenshots, at least one court has labeled it as fair use (in a comparative advertising setting). Considering the thousands of how-to websites, do-it-yourself videos, and published computer guides that make use of similar screenshots and icons, we'd say you'll be fine. (From a practical perspective it also doesn't make sense for these companies to chase down people whose guidebooks encourage the use of their products.) Our only caveat would be to avoid uses of screen shots strictly for commercial purposes instead of commentary, for example copying screen shots of copyrighted sheet music. Prominent disclaimers -- "Not affiliated with or endorsed by Adobe" -- may help prevent any trademark claims by dissuading readers from believing you are connected with these companies.

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