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I've seen this happen all the time. Hugely popular websites like Buzzfeed, Scoopwhoop and several other use images from other websites and leave a link back to source in the credits. What is the legality or this? So if need an image I can just take it from any website and leave a link to the original source?

Let me show you some examples,

Buzzfeed:

enter image description here

Scoopwhoop:

enter image description here

Is this okay to do?

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NO, not in general.

Some websites will grant permission to reuse their images conditioned upon a link-back. In that case it is perfectly legal to accept this offer. Some web sites use images released by their authors under a CC or other free license, which can therefore be used by anyone, with or without a link back. Some web sites use images which are, for one reason or another, in the public domain, so copyright simply does not apply.

But when none of these conditions apply, such images may not be reused, with or without a link-back, unless the re-user asks for and gets permission from the copyright holder to use them. A link-back is not a substitute for permission. It may be that the examples you mention are cases where the re-user did ask for and get permission. Or they may be cases of infringement, where the copyright holder has not (yet) chosen to sue. There is no way to be sure.

  • Thanks! I don't think they (Scoopwhoop) have any permission, they seem to be taking images from all websites in a similar fashion. – nshunz Feb 20 at 17:32
  • @nshunz It is at least possible that they are simply counting on people not suing. Individual images have little financial value in most cases, and may not have been registered, so statutory damages may not be available, making suites economically marginal or unsustainable. IMO this is wrong as well as illegal. – David Siegel Feb 20 at 18:02

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