I would say most websites with a somewhat thought-through graphical design use social media icons (i.e Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc) which are altered to fit the theme and design of the site.

Now, my boss insist we only use the ones provided by say Facebook or Twitter themselves (in fear of getting sued or lose credibility), but sometimes it just doesn't look very good on the site.

What is the common practice for these things? What do you risk by using an altered logo? What should I tell my boss?

I'll provide a few examples, what'd happen if I put any of these on a site?






3 Answers 3


Technically, you can get sued (at least in the United States).

  • The logo images are owned by social networks. They have copyright on them. You have to have a licence for to use them at all. (Generally, the sites give a licence to use them for social sharing buttons when unaltered.)
  • They generally have policies against modifying the logo images in any way:
    • Facebook - "[Don't use] any icons, images or trademarks to represent Facebook other than what is found on this resource center"
    • Google Plus - "You may create a custom Google+ Sign-In button to match your app's style." (But they have very specific custom button design specifications that you have to follow)
  • The logos are trademarks of the social network, so they fall under trademark law as well as under copyright law. With trademark laws, trademark owners have to show that they are aggressive about finding and punishing violators so that they don't lose their trademark status.

As a practical matter, the risk of using such logos is probably small. Even if the social networking sites find your violation and send a lawyer after you, the first step is likely to be a cease and desist letter. They would likely ask you to stop infringing their copyright and using their trademark inappropriately before they actually took you to court.

However, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

Social networks have other tools at their disposal other than taking you to court if they want to have you stop abusing their brand. For example, they could threaten to close all your accounts on their network.


Unless a lawyer comes along that knows about the appropriate law in your jurisdiction then all you're going to get is people's opinion.

Take a look around on the web, literally countless websites use their own themed social media icons as you say. Unless you're trying to imply some sort of affiliation or endorsement then I don't see what a social media platform would have to lose. You're basically just advertising for them.

If you want real legal advice, it's best to seek it from a professional.

  • I guess that strictly legal, I'm not allowed to use these. I'm mostly interested in what the community's standpoint is. Is anyone afraid really of the repercussions? Is it common practice even in large, very serious web-development companies to alter these? Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 23:21
  • Just flicking through recent sites I see that cloudflare.com and news.sky.com both have their own slightly themed icons. I even run them on my blog scotthelme.co.uk I'm not concerned really because it is such a common practice. As long as you don't put "Endorsed by Facebook" next to it, it's in their interest for you to send people to their sites so they can target them with adverts and make money. Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 23:25

First of all I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

According to the US Patent Office:

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

  2. The nature of the copyrighted work

  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

They, unfortunately, have better lawyers so it won't matter.

In other words, if you want to use them all you have to do is relocate to Panama and it will all be good :)

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