I know this is not a legal site, but this is closely related to photography so I hope this question can stay here. I am the owner and founder of a wildlife photo site, which I'll only plug here because its relevant for the question:
It's a photo sharing site (plus a whole lot more not relevant for now) where members upload their photos. Myself and the server are situated in the Netherlands, Europe. I'm just a guy with a website and have about zero capacity to withstand legal issues.
Yesterday I implemented a new feature that allows anyone (member or not) to embed a photo on sites external to JungleDragon, say a blog or forum. It does what you expect from other photo services: spit out an embed code that one can copy and paste.
I deeply appreciate the rights of photo owners, and therefore had taken the following measures:
- The size of the embedded photos is seriously constrained
- Although this feature allows photos to be displayed on other sites, the photo file itself still comes from JungleDragon. In addition, clicking it brings the user back to the original at JungleDragon.
- Members who do not appreciate their photos being embedded, can disable it globally, yet the default is that it is enabled (opt-out)
- Unrelated to this embed thing, right-clicking photos is disabled on the site
From my perspective, I have struck a reasonable balance between the control photo owners have over their content and the value of promoting content outside the site itself. Yet I have received some feedback that it is probably better to have embedding disabled by default.
It is absolutely safer, but it will also largely kill the embedding feature, as few users ever change their default settings.
Time to raise my main question: am I subject to any legal issues given the situation described above?
Of course I did a little digging myself, and found this interesting thread concerning 500px's embed feature (which cannot be disabled at all, hence it less reasonable than my proposal):
It seems there is no real consensus on that thread. 500px claims that thumbnailing is "fair use" and that "any photo posted on the web is trivial to reproduce". I would think that if such a popular service can get away with this, my solution which gives more control to photo owners is a safe bet?
The other thought I'm having concerns how embedding relates to other ways of sharing content. For example, like many sites, I have a social sharing widget on the site, allowing anyone to share a photo (preview) on Facebook and Twitter. It's a common practice and it happens without the photo owner's explicit consent, yet I don't hear anyone complaining about that? Another example is RSS, also available on many sites (including JungleDragon) and what about Google Image search. All of these services reproduce (display) a photo outside its original context without asking for permission.
Sorry if this question is a bit messy, but I'm trying to do good for photo owners whilst also trying to do good for the site. What are your thoughts?