Sites like IMDB as well as Rotten Tomatoes and countless other websites or mobile applications (such as flixter, etc.) all use movie posters and images from movies as part of their content which is more or less the selling point of their business (or maybe more accurately how they convince users to keep using). How do companies get away with using images or movie posters for free, does that mean movie posters and content are fair use for commerical use?

  • 3
    "Fair Use" is a term of art with a lot of established law. If you're not familiar with it you should just read about it. Or is your question whether those sites are using that content for free under fair use, or whether they are licensing it?
    – feetwet
    Jun 28, 2015 at 1:13
  • Wikipedia uses "Fair Use" and IMDB pays for the licence (or charges)
    – Jdahern
    Jun 29, 2015 at 16:31

2 Answers 2


It would be an overgeneralization to conclude that movie posters are "fair use for commerical use".

The uses you see imply that low resolution reproductions of movie posters have been judged by IMDB, Wikipedia, and others to be fair use for the purpose of identification alongside commentary (or in a transformative function like browsing).

As an example case, see Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 448 F.3d 605 (2d Cir. 2006), which held that it was fair use to reproduce thumbnail sized Grateful Dead concert posters in a book alongside a timeline.


For wikipedia: They will generally use a scaled down version under fair use as nomen agentis explained. If you look at the meta data for the images, it states how it is fair use (See Inside Out Poster). If it is found that the uploader did violate copyright by using a copyrighted version of the image that is not covered under fair use, then a DMCA notice is issued and the image is removed or replaced.

For IMDB: IMDB actually pays for the licence to show the photos. Per their FAQ about using images from their site, they state that the images are licensed to them only.

IMDB also charges a fee for high-resolution photos of the posters. This is an advertising fee more than anything else.

For other sites: they may do the same as IMDB unless it's a community site

  • @nomenagentis I feel that I did not explain that 100%. Its if the file violated copyright and not covered under fair use then a DMCA notice is issued, and the image may be removed.
    – Jdahern
    Jun 29, 2015 at 17:49
  • Did not know that wikipedia is stricter, but it does make sense on their part. Its better to be safe than sorry.
    – Jdahern
    Jun 29, 2015 at 18:09
  • Your "See Inside Out Poster" link links to IMDB's FAQ, and your "their FAQ about..." links to a 404.
    – wizzwizz4
    Mar 19, 2017 at 11:55

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