Copyright FAQs

Can I include stock art in my submission?

Your submission cannot contain any stock art unless the contest details specifically allow it. Every contest clearly states whether or not stock art is allowed (see screenshot below). The majority of contests on Studio only allow you to submit designs that you have created yourself. Please be sure you understand the Assignment Document, TopCoder Terms, and Official Studio Contest Rules and check each contest for more information about copyright issues before you submit.

What about fonts?

You cannot include font files with your submission. Instead, you will “declare” any fonts that you have used that are not on the Studio standard font list. Read the Font Policy here.

Can I trace or modify someone else’s work?

Absolutely not. All work should be solely created by you.

Can I use someone else’s design or photograph as a reference while making my own design?

Using photographs, illustrations and other art as a reference is a tricky thing. If you are looking at several references and formulating your own design, then it is acceptable. However, if you are using one reference as your only source, and you are drawing it to look like a duplicate, then you are breaking the rules and it’s not allowed.

Bottom line on referencing — if another person could look at your design and say, “I’ve seen that before!” then you have not come up with an original design and you should find more references and broaden your understanding of the subject so that you can create something unique.

Are there special considerations for Idea Generation and non-graphic design contests?

Yes. Please read more information about screening these types of contests here.

Can I use shape presets, brushes or other standard art tools in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc?

You can use very basic shapes like the rectangle or circle shape and very standard art brushes (for drawing/painting – not for stencil work). However, if you use presets that are not obviously simple shapes or brushes, you run the risk of failing screening. For example, using the bicycle shape found within Photoshop’s standard “shapes” tool will not be accepted. Using the recycle symbol, chat bubbles, checkmarks, and globes would also warrant a failure. Although these are considered “common” shapes, they are not considered to be “basic.”

Some acceptable basic shapes include:

  • All shapes found on a keyboard, including the “at” symbol, plus sign, number sign, percentage symbol, etc.
  • Standard geometric shapes such as rectangle, triangle, circle, etc.
  • Arrows

Presets, brushes, patterns and other stencils or shapes that you download from the Internet are not allowed. If it isn’t found within a stock version of the design program, you should not use it.

There has been a lot of discussion about this and we want you to remember two simple things:

  1. If you “stamped” or simply placed an identifiable design element (especially to use as an icon) into your submission, and it’s obvious you didn’t draw it yourself, it’s not acceptable. In other words, if a screener has seen it before, you are probably going to fail.
  2. Would your client like to see an icon within their submission that is a standard shape (preset) used on thousands of other designs? Or would they want a unique design that is made specifically for them?

If you are not sure which presets you can use, ask in the General Forums and an admin or screener would be happy to help you. Use your good judgment and you should not run into a problem.

Can I include artwork or code that is free or open source?

Your submission cannot contain any artwork that is labeled “free” or is in the public domain unless the contest specifically allows it (most don’t).

Can I include screenshots or photos from the web as long as I somehow show that they are placeholders?

You should never “grab” screenshots or photos from the web or stock art sites to use as placeholders. You can, however, use images the client provides for that contest. Otherwise, please create your own placeholder images.

Can I include photos I have taken myself?

Yes, as long as you are not violating any licensing laws with regard to photo releases (taking photos of people and selling/distributing them without their knowledge and written consent, taking photos of objects or places that have restrictions on photography, etc.)

What should I do if I think my design might be failed for copyright issues?

If you are concerned that your submission will fail, you should explain your concerns in the forums and/or send an email to the Studio admins. When it doubt, read the contest details again and look for any restrictions or allowances for copyrighted materials. Most contests will only allow you to submit designs you have created yourself.

What should I do if a client wants me to use screenshots or designs/artwork from the web?

If a client provides the images, you are free to use them. If, however, a client asks you to take images from the web that you or the client do not own, you should contact Studio admins so that we can help the client revise their requirements.

Can I use a well-known person (like Michael Jordan) or a character (like Mickey Mouse) in my design?

The use of images of famous people and/or recognizable names, likenesses, images and the like (whether original, altered, satirized, etc…) is not permitted in competition submissions unless specifically and explicitly permitted in the rules for the competition. This is because use of such images requires careful review by both TopCoder and the client to be sure that it is permissible to use in the way that the client intends to use the material, and unless specifically requested, the client typically does not want to perform such a review


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