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I'm curious about this UK site - handpicked.org - which republishes images from from social media accounts and other online sources. The pics are linked to the source, but don't carry a full attribution - just an icon and name to indicate where they came from. In some cases images are taken from other publishers like BuzzFeed. Some of the images even have copyright watermarks showing they came from a picture agency.

The site isn't reproducing the pics for review, or research, but apparently for commercial purposes. The main website doesn't carry advertising, though ads are visible when you view it in the web view of the Facebook mobile app. In the back end, images are taken from the source's URL, resized and re-served from the site's own server. They seem to republish most or all of the original image.

Is there any justification for this in law? As far as I know, images published on social media remain the property of the person who posted them - you can't use them without permission. The lack of attribution suggests to me they're doing it without getting consent from the source.

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When a person posts a picture which they own on some website like Instagram, you can insert that information in your own web page, causing the end-user's machine to retrieve the picture content from the address specified in that URL. The user's machine then automatically copies the content and displays it on the screen. That kind of automatic functional copying is permitted. Copyright law does not, technically, require you to get permission from the owner to "use" a work, it more specifically refers to copying and distributing. The automatical copying that happens with image URLs is covered statutorily (at least in the US), and I don't know if anyone has ever tried to legally pursue link-propogation as a form of unpermitted distribution.

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    This is called hotlinking and can be considered theft of services or a form of copyright infringement, depending on the jurisdiction. It's also risky from a practical standpoint: since the server hosting the image isn't under your control -- the other person could decide to punish you by replacing the image with Goatse. – Mark Nov 14 '16 at 3:18
  • In this case the site isn't using the original image URL, but passing it through their own image service, for example handpicked.cloudimg.io/s/width/400/http://40.media.tumblr.com/…. – And Finally Nov 14 '16 at 9:32

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