There will be approximately one dozen images scheduled to appear in my upcoming book. These are, in the majority, old ads from various clients, industries and campaigns I have worked on.

I make no pretension or allusion I had anything to do with the artwork, graphics or words.

My role was just to buy the advertising space and formally book or place the ad(s) in newspaper, outdoor, TV etc..

I document every item as thoroughly as I can. Identifying the client/ the ad agency/ the art director/ when the ad ran/where the ad ran.

I'm not trying to trump anyone's thunder- in fact I feel better giving full acknowledgement to the original creator.

Is this enough? Do I still need any formal permission from each client to have these re-appear?

Thank you.


  • 2
    Why are you including them in your book? What's their purpose in that work?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Mar 23, 2015 at 16:15
  • Can you share more about what kind of book this is? I'm assuming non-fiction? Is it autobiography, or an academy study of advertising, or something else? It might not make any difference to the answer, but it will help people understand your question. Mar 23, 2015 at 16:17
  • Thank you Kit. These images are included to show these are the ads I was responsible for placing. In a behind the scenes role, my job is to get these ads in the best media (newspaper, magazines, TV etc.) to showcase the client. I am merely the curtain puller while they take centre stage. No-one will know, or care, about what I do, unless I can show them ads they might recognize and realize I had a lot to do with them being able to see it.
    – Dennis
    Mar 23, 2015 at 19:17
  • I have seen many websites showcasing all kinds of works that the website owner was involved in, from movie trailers that the composer created the score for, to products that the designer designed the package for. If the image is small enough to not count as a publication of the original, and you make it clear how you were involved in it, I see no problem. In your case it might make sense not to show the ad alone, but to show it in the context of its publication, i.e. include the newspaper page heading to show where the ad appeared, since that seems to be what you want to take credit for.
    – user5645
    Mar 24, 2015 at 8:13
  • Thank you 'What'. I have conferred with all the agencies who created the original ads and I have their respective written approvals. I am giving as full a documentation I know to give credit where credit is due for each ad. My only role was to make sure as many people as possible could see it. Thanks for your supportive comments. Dennis
    – Dennis
    Mar 24, 2015 at 13:05

4 Answers 4


Can you ask someone at the advertising company you worked for? Surely they know who owns the copyrights, and can give you their contact information. You do not want to get sued by a big company, so you'd better check up to make sure. Anything produced in your lifetime is still under copyright unless it was formally released into the public domain, which seems very unlikely for ads.


As well as being a writer, I am a graphic designer and sign maker. I photograph the signs I make and include those photos and also images of logos I have designed, in my advertising materials: Web site, pamphlets, catalogue, and signs. In that regard, if I have read your question properly, I am doing much the same as you.

  • Unless you have assigned the copyright to the company you designed the ad for, then the copyright for the design remains with you;
  • in any case, it is highly unlikely that a business is going to take legal action against you for advertising their goods or services at no cost to themselves.

Unless I have misunderstood your question, if it were me, I wouldn't worry about it - you are doing them a favour.

Kind regards, James


You should be safe on legal footing, assuming that the copyrights were not assigned to your clients or that you don't have contractual obligations to request permission from the clients to use these works.


Unauthorized use of copyrighted material is (in the United States) a violation of federal law.

Don't do it.

Get a lawyer. Get permission.

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