What is my legal responsibility when allowing users to either transfer online images to my server, or creating hotlinks to online images?
February 14, 2011 8:50 PM   Subscribe

What is my legal responsibility when allowing users to display images on my site that are sourced by the user either transferring online images to my server, or creating hotlinks to online images?

My web-app allows users to add images to their profile, either by uploading from their computer or providing a URL to the image. When a URL is provided, the user would choose between the following two options:
i) Copy the image to my server - The user does not want to be responsible for hosting the image but still want to use it in the web-app.
ii) Not copy the image and load the image every time from the URL that was provided - The user would rather host the image themself (such as a photo of the user's kids).
What is my legal responsibility with each of these two options? With i), I am transferring an image from somewhere on the net to my own server. With ii), I am using an image that is located on someone else's server in my web-app.
I am situated in Australia.
posted by ben5757 to Computers & Internet (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a lawyer. I don't know much about the specifics of the various laws. But in the second case, you are at least publishing the image. Someone whose copyright is being violated is going to print out a page of yourdomain.com and their image will be there. No matter where it is hosted, the effect will be that their image is on your publication. Real-world consequences are probably that if anyone notices, you will be asked to get rid of it.

In the first case, it might open you up to more trouble, but I don't know why exactly.

A solution might be to require that the profile images come from some other place, like facebook or flickr where they are the ones filtering out copyrighted images. This wouldn't change your legal culpability should a violation occur, but I'd think it would reduce your exposure to risk.

A disclaimer and "no copyrighted images that you don't own" policy might be useful. I doubt it gets you OUT of trouble should you get in trouble, but it would shift some of the responsibility to other people.
posted by gjc at 7:04 AM on February 15, 2011

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