Browsing around social networks and this community, I see that there are users that use pictures of actors from TV series as their avatar.

I don't want to point to anyone's profile to give an example, but I saw any kind of copyrighted material used as icon or avatar: characters from animated cartoons or videogames, actors faces taken from frames of famous TV series, softwares icons, famous paintings (full or details), etc...

Is it legal to use copyrighted materials for a "small thing" as an avatar or icon?

1 Answer 1


Such conduct might be judged as passing the tests of fair use, under which circumstances copying is not infringement. Though it is not educational, such use is non-commercial, and depending on context could be (positively) seen as sociopolitical commentary. It clearly passes the substantiality test since it amounts to copying a zillionth of the original work, and it's hard to see how such a use could have any (negative) effect on the market value of the original. To the extent that the use "transforms" the original, that favors a fair use analysis. (For example, directly uploading a rescaled version of a jpeg from the studio is not very transformative, but capturing a frame from a movie and selecting Rowan Atkinson's head would be transformative). This index gives you a number of fair case rulings, where you can see what courts have found to be fair versus unfair.

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