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I see a lot of blogs (coding horror for example) that seem to feature random pictures in the entries.

Would I be correct in saying they probably didn't seek permission to use those images? What are the rules around this? Can I use any image I want in my blog post? Or do I have to seek permission?

I'm thinking there might be a sort of reasonable journalistic usage thing here if your blog is somehow classed as a journalistic venture? Or am I mistaken?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Tom, you stepped into a big, gigantic, outstanding, and pretty scary gray area.

Random images used for descriptive purposes should all be correctly licensed.

In practice even bloggers using wikimedia commons pictures (those should be free for all uses as long as they are correctly credited) hardly meet the copyright's holder requirements. (that is: they don't attribute correctly)

The problem is so huge even newspapers themselves are getting into the habit of redistributing naively copied pictures (usually funny ones) for their online versions.

When confronted about that, many will murmur things about fair use and stuff... but fair use is only in USA and pretty vague.

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Including images from one website on another is part of the way that the web works and there's not been much successful legal challenge about it. (http://www.bitlaw.com/internet/linking.html)

Read that article for more info on what's not allowed (pretending comics are your own, pretending that your website is the official one for the product featured).

However every time you include someone else's image it's using up their bandwidth when your visitors see that picture. So if your website is popular then it's good practise to make legal copies of those images and host them yourself. So if you're a commercial site that might mean paying for stock photography, or if you're non-commercial then look for Creative Commons licensed pictures (though some CC licensed pictures can be used commercially), or pictures with no license.

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I don't think he was referring to directly linking to externally hosted images, but you bring up a very important point. – Jacob Hume Jul 27 '11 at 18:58

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