Legal Education

Your Go-To Guide For Using Canva Legally

using canva legally
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Let’s talk about image — not yours (we know that’s always on point), but that fresh design you’re using to promote your brand!

Even though savvy entrepreneurs like you can whip up a digital masterpiece at a moment’s notice, you may want to pause to read your platform’s terms of use, especially if you’re using Canva.

Yep, let’s talk about using Canva legally (not all of you are doing it, but it’s okay, we’re here to help).

using canva legally

Canva for Creatives

If you’re unfamiliar, Canva is a graphic design platform that provides templates, design elements and, free media for users to create a wide range of visual content. For self-starters with an eye for aesthetics, it’s a pretty useful tool.

What’s more, Canva’s CEO and co-founder, Melanie Perkins, is a total boss babe. As one of the youngest female CEOs of a tech startup valued at over a billion dollars, she keeps the dream of the unicorn startup alive!

So why is your Legal Godfairy telling you all this?

Well my lovelies, if you’re currently using a design platform like Canva or plan to in the future, you need to understand the legal ramifications. Certain actions can land you in legal hot water, even with designs you create.

But breathe deep and don’t stress, because this article is going to lay it all out for you. 

Need a legal perspective on your small business? Make The Legal Legacy Lounge™ your go-to hub for legal information that will protect you as you scale from formation to success. 

How You Can Use Photos and Video Files From Canva

When you’re ready to tap into your inner film goddess on Canva, you have a couple options. One is to create designs based on your own photos and videos that you upload directly to the app. Another is to take advantage of Canva’s vast media library, which includes more than six million pre-licensed video clips and 60 million curated stock photos. To access their full media cache, you’ll need to pay for a Canva Pro subscription, which is currently $119.99 per year. 

Let’s say you’re a free Canva subscriber, and you want to use their stock video footage to create a short video about your delicious food truck wares. You find the perfect free clips of people enjoying their food-truck delicacies at an oceanside park that resembles where you live. You edit it, put on the last finishing touches and are ready to go — but go where?

Canva allows subscribers to use free stock media for commercial and personal use, meaning you can share it just about anywhere. However, Canva does not guarantee that any of its free images, music or videos have the appropriate releases for commercial use. That means that if the media contains an identifiable person, place, logo or trademark, you may need to track down the image or video source. 

Canva’s Free Media License Agreement

Canva’s Free Media License Agreement

When you export a design that uses Canva’s media, you’re agreeing to their content license agreement. The free media license agreement grants the user perpetual, non-exclusive and non-transferable worldwide license to use content in many ways, including the following:

  • Advertising and promotional projects, including printed materials, packaging, presentations, commercials, catalogs, brochures, greeting cards and more without any limits on reproduction
  • Entertainment applications, such as book covers, magazines, newspapers, editorials, newsletters and video, with unlimited prints
  • Online and electronic publications, including web pages, blogs, ebooks and videos
  • Prints and posters for personal or promotional purposes, resale, license or other distribution

Keep in mind that the free content license differs from the pro content license, so it’s important to know which you’re using in a particular project. In the event that you’re using both free and pro content in one design, Canva applies the stricter pro rules to it. 

Do You Own the Graphics You Create in Canva?

The truth is, it’s complicated. When you upload content you own, like that dazzling sunset pic you snapped, you obviously still own it. However, the second you start applying Canva’s design elements, ownership gets hazy. That’s because the original creators own the individual design elements; they’re simply granting you license to use their features in your design. 

Ultimately, you own the final design because it’s your original composition; however, you don’t own all of the individual elements. Before you make a design that’s crucial to your brand’s image, read our top seven ways to protect your intellectual property.

Is Attribution Required on Canva?

Attribution is not required, but everyone loves a shout-out! Creators of all kinds benefit from attribution, so why not tell the world who took that gorgeous photo on your business cards? 

Can You Edit Media From Canva?

Yes, editing media is what Canva is all about! You can crop, shape, filter, distort — basically make any modification you want — as long as it doesn’t violate Canva’s terms of use. However, you can’t cast identifiable people in a bad or offensive light. 

Can You Sell Media You Find on Canva?

Although you can sell designs that contain Canva’s media, you can’t just scoop up unaltered stock images, music or video clips and sell them elsewhere. You also can’t sell blown-up prints or posters of unaltered images, or any physical product that uses stock media without adding some kind of value. 

How Do You Know You’re Violating Canva’s Terms?

It may seem simple, but your legal godfairy suggests you READ THE TERMS! Canva is incentivized to provide you with all the rules you need to know because they want to avoid lawsuits. Even if you don’t understand all of it, spending some time with the rules will give you a good idea of what to avoid. 

If you don’t have time or just hate legal writing, ask a lawyer to go over it for you. They can help set up a protocol to keep you and your creative collaborators safe. This part is essential: Once you understand the terms, make sure your employees and independent contractors do, too! This is especially important if they’re creating brand collateral for you. 

Legal Guidance for Entrepreneurs and Canva Users of All Kinds

Here’s the thing: Whether you use Canva or not, you’re going to need legal guidance at some point. That’s because every successful entrepreneur is expanding the horizons of what is possible, and we know you’re on the path to greatness! 

Part of growing your business is growing your legal knowledge — The Legal Godfairy can help with that. Need templates and legal contracts? Wish granted. Need CEO coaching? Poof, done. Need free legal crash courses? Godfairy provides. TLG is here to help you inspire! Browse our legal offerings and send us a note if you don’t see what you’re looking for. 


*Disclaimer: This blog post has been prepared solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied on for, legal advice. Should you require advice regarding a specific matter, appropriate legal or other professional advice should be obtained.

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Hi, I'm Neesa.
Attorney-turned-entrepreneur.

I traded stuffy suits, corner offices, and corporate boardrooms to serve small business owners and other freedom-seeking entrepreneurs like you from a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea.

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