Laws Re: Reposting Others Internet Pics & Articles
January 5, 2010 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Legal to Start a Funny Picture Site Using Others' Internet Posted Pics?

My friends and I had a really fun and funny Facebook group where we would post ironically humorous pictures related to our collective hobby. 90% of these entries came from local newspapers nationwide that posted their articles and photographs online.

On our group page, we would post the picture and a brief synopsis of the article, or the entire article, always crediting the original website and offering a hyperlink.

Facebook said that the pictures might be a problem with their TOS so we took them down. I love the collection so much that I would very much like to buy a domain name and hosting so we can share our hilarious finds with the world, not unlike and sites like that, but a different topic.

My question is: is this legal? To clarify, we will be posting:

1) Photographs of adults who submitted their information to local newspapers to be printed in the paper and put on the paper's online site as well. I would host the copied picture on our server.

2) A synopsis of the article, or the article in its entirety, but always giving credit and a hyperlink to the original publishing source.
posted by curiositykilledthelemur to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From the sounds of things, no it is not legal. It is a violation of the copyright held by the publisher (the paper/reporter/photographer/whoever created the work). Hasn't stopped millions of other sites from doing the exact same thing you want to do though. But you are opening yourself up to legal trouble.
posted by WickedPissah at 6:35 PM on January 5, 2010

posted by bluedaisy at 6:37 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: does this mean that ALL these sites out here are totally illegal?
posted by curiositykilledthelemur at 6:39 PM on January 5, 2010

No, it's not legal. Yes, lots of people steal content, put ads on the page, and profit. We refer to these people as "dicks".

If you really just want sharing with friends, set up a private website, password protected so that only your group can see it.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:41 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: now i'm just totally curious as to how all of these sites exist without being attacked legally 24-7! how can icanhascheezburger and cuteoverload and catsthatlooklikehitler and hotornot, etc. post their stuff for years on end? how can they have books using said pictures for obvious profit?

fascinating. i'm not going to do it now, and am glad i used my weekly question! :)
posted by curiositykilledthelemur at 6:45 PM on January 5, 2010

The four sites you listed run on user submitted content - where the user owns the content they're submitting - whereas you're talking about using content taken from newspapers. That's quite different. The newspapers own the IP of their photos and articles and you need their permission before using it even with attribution links (unless it was explicitly released under creative commons or similar). Also the TOS of those sites are generally such that when uploading your work you transfer some rights to the site owners, which is how they can make a book or otherwise make money off your submitted content. So it's all about ownership and permission.

If you write to each newspaper individually and ask for or purchase permission for everything you publish and/or only use works with the appropriate CC license then you'll actually be fine. But it would be difficult to make a whole site out of that.
posted by shelleycat at 6:59 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

you might want to do some searching using the terms "fair use" and "deep linking". a lot of newspaper sites out there are none too happy with people taking their content for their own views/pages. google news comes under fire a lot. associated press is one of the companies that is more aggressive about policing their links and snippits.

to my layman's ears, what you're describing in no way falls under fair use and in all ways falls under copyright infringement, but there are plenty of people here better suited to have that discussion if they care to.
posted by nadawi at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2010

i'm just totally curious as to how all of these sites exist without being attacked legally 24-7

1) what shelleycat said - in the case of legit sites, submitters give up their copyright.

2) Tracking down the owners of the skeezy sites and filing the lawsuits would be a huge expense. To make it worse, lots of those sites are based in other countries, where the same copyright protections may nor apply, or may be very laxly enforced. In short, it's usually not worth it for content owners to track down any but the most egregious offenders.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2010

Doesn't sound THAT much different from sites like Not too much original content there.
posted by santaliqueur at 8:35 PM on January 5, 2010

I think many sites like or host considerable pirate content along with their original content, but their safe so long as they respond to ">takedown notices promptly. I'm sure the fact that nobody credits the original source helps too.

Your little hobby sounds closer to and which might claim fair use based upon the subject being famous. I donno..
posted by jeffburdges at 9:52 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: to what end would you be running this site? all the ones listed are in the business of selling ads while using content the viewers provided. most of their terms of service include transfer of copyright explicitly. i've had my original content stolen - its watermark cropped out and replaced with some wannabe site's logo. most sites are friendly with their agreement to take things down or are jerks and just hope you can't afford a lawyer. for your purposes i'd recommend you and your friends all get on a service like google wave. you can share things in private with reduced risk of any legal hassles. i even have a spare invite i can send your way. mefi mail me if you're interested.
posted by beardlace at 12:13 AM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: google wave is genius! thanks, beardlace! that invite can go to another needy soul - i already have one but haven't used it yet, as had no knowledge of what i could do with it!
posted by curiositykilledthelemur at 6:53 AM on January 6, 2010

It's hard to say a) without knowing what you'll be discussing and b) because I'm totally handwaving here, but I have a blog with a similar concept. Because the photos I use are commercial, published, etc, and I comment on them, I'm safe under fair use criticism.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:09 AM on January 6, 2010

« Older Light working, watch for cop?   |   Buying a New York City Voting Machine Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.