Linking Wikipedia SVGs

I’ve got a couple of questions concerning some SVG images that are embedded in this chord diagram:

The nodes in the diagram correspond to teams in the Big Ten conference and each one is labeled by a team logo. Those logos are SVG images that come from Wikipedia who claims that the images are in the public domain. After I built this and gave a it a bit of thought, it seems a bit hard to believe that those images would be in the public domain.

Question 1: Should I be concerned about the use of those images from a licensing perspective? More importantly, is that use something that the Observable team would be concerned about?

Question 2: The images don’t live here on Observable but, rather, they are linked from Wikipedia via an image/xlink:href attribute. Assuming I have confidence that those links aren’t going anywhere, is there any technical reason that I should not link to images offsite like that?

Since you’re asking: yes. Football team logos are generally trademarked, and cannot be used without the appropriate license. But no, that’s not something that the Observable team is going to be concerned about unless a problem arises. We would respond to a takedown request on behalf of the university, for example. See the Copyright Infringement section of our Terms of Service for more detail:

Only the usual reason why hotlinking is generally not a great idea — in practice, over the scope of five or ten years, external links on the internet tend to degrade. Even if the SVG still exists on Wikimedia, the URL structure may change, and redirects may fail. Our File Attachments feature gives you an easy way to host small SVG images like these in your notebook itself.


Yes, I would have thought that such logos would be trademarked. Wikipedia pages like this, though assert the following:

This image consists only of simple geometric shapes or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for copyright protection, and is therefore in the public domain.

Given the complications, your respond when necessary approach sounds very reasonable. Also given that I’m not making any money, it seems unlikely that a complaint would arise.

Also, I did not consider the possibility of URL structure changing.

That’s WRT copyright, which is one thing. Trademark is an entirely different thing, and Wikipedia says this:

This work includes material that may be protected as a trademark in some jurisdictions. If you want to use it, you have to ensure that you have the legal right to do so and that you do not infringe any trademark rights. See our general disclaimer.

IANAL, so consult a lawyer if you have specific concerns, but trademark and copyright work differently. With trademark, it is the use of the mark in trade that is protected, and applies to identifying a particular brand, and not to, say, others identifying that same brand. In fact, you want people to do that.

But if you’re using it on something you’re selling, you have a problem. A lot of their income comes from licensing deals for merch, so it puts you in conflict with their trade and these orgs generally enforce them vigorously.

Even were copyright involved, there’s “fair use”. There are subtleties galore, but basically, small amounts (the entirity for something this small) for purposes of commentary, etc. is a protected use.

Unfortunately, some—especially certain record labels—abuse copyright law, issuing takedowns for even someone having the radio on in the background, and if you’re doing music analysis, you’re likely to be demonitized at best. (Check out Rick Beato on YouTube for some excellent analysis of what makes particular songs great).

Then there’s some people who use it to go after critics. For example, this recent gem:

Fortunately, Greg is a lawyer—it only made things worse for them!

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