Everyday thousands of pictures (memes,celebrity pics, wallpapers) are shared by users like me on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and many other websites. We get likes and shares for those images and create pages/communities that do this and monetize by saying "I will pin your post on top of the Facebook page for one week for x dollars". Now my question is : Isn't this copyright infringement too?

Can i do the same in a simple blog/website that i host myself? I still can't get this copyright stuff properly into my head. What are the rules in layman's terms?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't obey copyright rules because of fear of retaliation. Obey copyright rules because you respect the creator's rights to his intellectual property. It is worth to take extra measures to properly compensate someone for his work, because you either learn to be financially solvent, or learn to use Creative Commons or public domain artwork. These are BOTH valuable lessons. Honesty and integrity pays off on the long run. \$\endgroup\$
    – TFuto
    Feb 5, 2015 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


Yes, there is a breathtaking amount of copyright infringement going on on the internet.

The thing is: where it concerns images, most of it happens with the implicit approval of the copyright holders, who basically like to have their stuff shared and pinned and retweeted all over the internet (at least by consumers) because that gets them attention and ultimately money. They don't make it official by putting the stuff under a permissive license because they want to retain the ability to stop other companies from finding ways to get that attention money instead of them. But as long as the copyright holder tolerates it, infringement can happen without consequences.

The exception are images which are themselves products, such as professional photography and art. Copyright holders do very often seek out and sue infringement in such areas. But even there, allowing low-resolution and watermarked versions to be shared is common.

On the legal and organizational level, the key compromise are safe harbor rules which allow sites with user-generated content to operate without being sued for copyright infringement perpetrated by the users, as long as they follow procedures to remove such content promptly. And end users typically aren't sued because that's bad publicity.

What that means for your "blog/website that i host myself?": as long as it never gets very popular (which is the most likely outcome), it will probably remain unnoticed anyway. If it starts earning real money, you'll get legal problems sooner or later that will shut you down unless it got so big so quickly that the copyright holders figure that they can have you make money for them. And if it involves user-generated content, satisfying the requirements to be considered a safe harbor is probably not done easily and should be vetted by a specialist lawyer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the detailed answer Michael, right now reading the Wikipedia link you shared. Also curious to hear what other's have to say. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2014 at 11:03

It depends if the images were released and under what conditions. Generally speaking, in most cases the creator of an image has the copyright for it and it can only be used with their permission except of a select few situations known as "fair use". Fair Use varies by legal jurisdiction and consists of the situations in which it is legally deemed to be in the public interest to allow the use of a copyrighted image without needing the copyright holder's permission.

Certainly, a large portion of image use on the Internet probably does consist of copyright violations, but a similarly large amount is either images that have been publicly released (as many memes for example may have been) or fair use (as a good number of non-commercial personal uses may fall under).

Fundamentally, at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of copyright holder to enforce their copyright. If they see a usage that they don't agree with, they can request that it be taken down or take legal action if needed, but practically, it isn't really possible to go after every use since the Internet is just too big.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks couldn't mark both your's and Michael' answer. Thanks again. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18, 2014 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StillLearning - no problem, he can use the rep more than me anyway and his answer was also great. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Aug 18, 2014 at 18:50

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