I am a wedding florist, and clients want to see lots of different pictures to help them choose their arrangements. There are lots of pictures people have posted online, such as on pinterest.

Can I download pictures from Pinterest, Google Images and other openly available sources, and send these pictures to potential clients? I would not pass it off as my own work. Can the florists who made those arrangements take legal action against me?

  • The safer course of action would be to send links rather than the images themselves. Whether there is copyright infringement if you download and send the pictures is a closer call. – ohwilleke Oct 23 '18 at 20:18
  • Hi, and welcome to law.SE! The question in your title was different from the question in the text. I edited to align the two. Feel free to re-edit if necessary. – sleske Oct 24 '18 at 8:40

Unless you have a licence (many will have), copying the images is breach of copyright.

Also, making a flower arrangement based on a picture of a flower arrangement is a derivative work and also copyright infringement.

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  • Good point about the arrangement itself being under copyright. Though I suppose you could vary it to escape that trap, but still good to keep in mind. – sleske Oct 24 '18 at 8:46

Some images on Pintrest are under free licenses, many are not. Making and distributing copies of images that are not under free licenses would be at least a technical infringement of copyright. (In general, making a copy of a protected work is infringement, unless you have permission, usually some sort of license.) As you are not transforming the images, and are not commenting on them, and are doing this as part of a commercial enterprise, this probably would not count as fair use under US law (you don't state where you are located). Given that the original images are not being sold, and so you are not harming the market for them nor causing any economic damage, the likelihood that you would be sued may not be large, and the damages might be small even if you were, but neither of those would be a sure thing.

There are many images on the net that are distributed under a free license. You would be much safer to search out and distribute such freely available images. Or you could distribute links to the original images, as @ohwilleke suggests in a comment. In either case you should be safe from suit.

The person who could potentially take action against you would be the photographer who created the images, or the copyright holder if the copyright has been transferred, or the image was a work made for hire.

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  • if i were to edit slightly (e.g. word has frames which cut off small sections of the picture), would i be safe? – Tuvia Oct 31 '18 at 11:16
  • No, slight edits would only create derivative works, which are just as much protected. – David Siegel Oct 31 '18 at 13:50

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