Use of images in blogs

Hi - just a quick legal question…if I were to start a blog about say something like hot air balloons for example…and I invited people to send in pictures and posted them, would I be liable as the site owner if their pictures were under some kind of copyright?

As far as I know, yes. You own the blog, you’re responsible for its content.

When you use submitted content copyrighted content is always a risk but don’t let that stop you. Even these forums are not immune!

I suggest having a disclaimer on your site where submitters agree that any content they send you that they have permission to give you for publishing. If you do end up being contacted by the legal owner they’ll most likely ask you simply to remove the offending item which you can do very easily.

Although if it turns out to be owned by a commercial stock image company (and the big G springs to mind here!) it could result in a demand for several thousand pounds for services already rendered, and in these cases removing the image doesn’t make the problem go away. :frowning:


If, however, you invite people to send in THEIR pictures (that they took) and your invite included a license to use their pictures you would be complying with the law.

If your conditions for people uploading images is written correctly then you would just forward the demand to the person who uploaded the image and let them deal with it. Worst case is that you would need to take legal action against them for what the copyright owner wants plus your costs.

Maybe attorney jaffe could answer this, but I would imagine that since the DMCA provides that web hosts (service providers) aren’t liable for content their clients upload to a website, would the blog not be considered a service provider too that would only have the responsibility to remove images if a copyright claim was submitted to them?

I’ve always understood that to be the case, but I don’t run any sites that allow users to contribute images so that’s just a hunch and I could be wrong.

It’s always best to consult with an attorney in your area concerning the rules where you live and how they apply to you.

In other words, one way or another, ultimately the site owner is going to get worked over by the copyright owner!

I don’t think it’s realistic to try and fight teams of lawyers from the image stock companies, who are employed full time to bring in lost fees from unauthorised use. Sure, in theory you can ‘forward the demand to the person who uploaded the image and let them deal with it’. But in practice what is going to happen? The copyright owner is still going to come after you aggressively for thousands of pounds - the image is on your site - and the uploader (whose real name and address you probably don’t even know) is going to read your forwarded letter with horror, shut his eyes, put his fingers in his ears and start humming loudly.

Who needs this kind of grief? :slight_smile:

I think the answer, in the context of the hot air ballooning site, is to minimise risk as far as possible with well-written T&C’s as felgall suggests, but also to examine uploaded images very carefully and immediately remove anything that has the possibility to be an expensive stock image.

Clues for identifying stock images might include: image is obviously highly professional; image is obviously enhanced; trademarks and logos have been airbrushed out; the people pose like film stars (!); no obvious relevance to the poster’s written comments; etc… It may be guesswork and you may annoy a few genuine posters, but it’s probably worthwhile.

Don’t trust to luck, though - that would be my overall advice. There is the potential for very serious problems.


This is a Great example!

Ravedesigns is correct that the Safe Harbor Provision of the DMCA will protect a web site owner from copyright liability for the postings on their web site made by the poster in a forum or blog, etc. However, if the web site owner participates in the postings, then the safe harbor disappears.

When I read Quigley’s question it was the “invitation” to post that gave me heartburn. In deciding if the DMCA would protect him, the court would examine if the site owner was shaping the content. If they decided they were, the DMCA would not protect them. The classic case on this issue is the case where was found liable because they offered a drop down menu that provided the user choices that were discrimnatory.

In conclusion, it would boil down to the words Quigley used in his invitation and the court would decide if Quigley crossed the line and his invitation was “shaping” the content. That is why I suggested that the invitation ask the poster to post “their” pictures. That one word would protect the web site owner from liability under the DMCA.