if i download a picture of product from merchant website, who owns the IPR of the picture? manufacturer or merchant.

The product picture can be anything like mobile phone, a picture of a house or even of a Donald Trump.


Initially, the creator of the image, or in some cases the creator's employer, owns the image, or more exactly its copyright. But that copyright can be sold or otherwise transferred. If the creator was a contractor, it is likely that the copyright was transferred to the client. If a business owns the copyright, and it is bought by another business, that copyright will most likely be transferred along with the rest of the business.

The copyright owner may also chose to grant permission to others to use the image in various ways. This is known as a license. The terms of the license can be pretty much anything that the copyright owner chooses to make them.

When an image appears on a merchant website, it may be that the merchant owns the copyright, or that the manufacturer of the item pictured owns the copyright, and has licensed the image to the merchant for use in the catalog. It may even be that a third party owns the copyright, and has licensed the image to the merchant, directly or via the manufacturer.

In any case, by displaying the image on the catalog site, the merchant has given visitors permission to view the image, and probably to download copies for personal use. But unless there is an explicit grant of additional permissions, a user may not re-use the image in any other way. This would include distributing it to others, creating modified versions of the image, or combining it with other images.

In addition to being protected by copyright, the image may possibly be a trademark, used to identify the product it represents. This is more likely for product or business logos, and less likely for simple pictures of a product, but it is possible in either case.

If an image is also a trademark, it may not be used to advertise or indicate the source of goods or services without permission from the trademark holder, and it may not be used to indicate or imply any endorsement or association between the trademark holder or the maker of the product and the person using the image, without permission.

There are limited exceptions to copyright. In the US Fair use applies. This is for comment on or reference to the copyrighted work, or for limited use of it, particularly for "transformative use" this is different from the original use. It is more likely to apply for non-commercial use, but can apply to some commercial uses. A somewhat similar, but narrower, exception known as Fair dealing applies in the UK and some other countries. This law.se Q&A describes fair use in more detail.

There are limited exceptions to trademark protection. In general, use of a trademark to identify or comment on a trademarked item is nominative use and is permitted. Nominative use is more likely to apply to a word than to an image or logo.

  • For example, in case of an ecommerce site, do you believe they own or are licensed to use images of products on their catalog. And how would you distinguish the same image of product with someone else for the purpose of IPR. – Cholthi Paul Ttiopic Jul 9 '19 at 6:04
  • The customer has no need to know or distinguish. I suppose that most eCommerce sites have a mix of licenses and owned images. Some may infringe. Owners may have hashes or other ways to distinguish. – David Siegel Jul 9 '19 at 13:05

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