No? Well, I hadn’t either until I was building my own website and was looking into some modified social media icons. Then, I discovered that all of these companies have very strict policies on what you can, and more importantly can’t, do with their logos.
Usually, you can’t change the color, shape of the icon or aspect ratio, and sometimes they even have policies on how much space you need to leave around the logo. Basically, you usually can’t make custom icons that match the design of your blog.
So yes, the vast majority of websites that you see are violating the Trademarks of the social media companies by using modified social media icons.
Technically these companies could sue you over it, though really, as long as you’re not making money off of the modified icons, I would be surprised if they did. It’s probably not worth their time or energy to go after a small business or blogger who has modified the logos. I mean, there are obviously countless people out there who are using modified logos and none of them have been sued yet.
However, it’s the principal of the thing, the idea that people can just ignore the restrictions on a Trademarked image, that bothers me. These logos are the intellectual property of the companies, and those companies have every right to dictate what can and cannot be done with their logos.
No one would think twice about an artist who let people use a drawing of hers but said it couldn’t be changed. That makes sense; it’s something that belongs to the artist and she is just “lending” it to you. So why do people look at the social media logos differently? You would be hard pressed to find someone who thought it was OK to change the logos of other companies in the same way that everyone wantonly ignores the restrictions on social media icons.
So What Can You Do?
I’ve found that a ton of social icon plugins and social sharing plugins use icons that do not conform to the restrictions from the social media companies. In that situation, I’m not sure who is technically at fault, you for using the wrong icons on your website or the plugin authors for putting the wrong icons in their products. I suspect that both parties would technically be at fault. But either way, I’m trying to play by the rules, so I had to be more picky about how I added social media icons to my site.
For the “Follow Me” type icons that I have in my header and my sidebar, I just hard coded them in. I’m a fan of not using plugins for small things that are easy to do by hand, so I just went into the code and added them for the header and used a text widget for my sidebar. It’s a lightweight solution and did the job just fine.
Finding a solution for using the proper icons in a social sharing plugin was more difficult. Most of the popular plugins I found had modified social media icons in one way or another.
I first started looking for plugins that would let me upload my own “custom” icons. That would allow me to upload the company approved logos instead. But thankfully, I came across Share Buttons by AddToAny. From everything that I can tell, they use the official icons from each company, and they allow people to share your content to over 100 services. Much more convenient!
Now I feel comfortable with the social media icons on my website. I know that not everyone shares my qualms about using incorrect social media icons, but having worked with artists in the past, I find myself being very sensitive to infringement on someone’s rights when it comes to artwork and logos.
What about you? Did you even know that you’re not supposed to use custom, modified social media icons? If you have them, do you think you’ll change them out for the correct ones?