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I wanted to write a blog post about a common feature of some popular websites. To illustrate, I'll need to take screenshot, crop and shows the specific features that's I'm referring to.

I wonder if that's legal? Do I need to inform the webmaster for each of the site before I publish my post?

A second question is that since my focus is that specific feature, so I guess I should blur out the content of the screenshot, or I shouldn't alter anything?

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Regarding blurring out identifying features, you wouldn't have to if it's a publicly accessible website. If you have to be a registered user to view the page you're screenshotting from (and your viewers are presumed to possibly not be registered), then that's a little trickier. Better to be safe than sorry. –  akTed Jan 13 '13 at 11:02
    
@AKTed Good point –  faulty Jan 14 '13 at 1:02

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, it is perfectly legal for you to publish screenshots in an article/blog post that is discussing the content of those images. This is considered to be within fair use doctrine under section 107 of US copyright law, "Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use." Here are the four conditions given that determine fair use:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

So long as you're not trying to make money off of someone else's work, publishing screenshots for discussion is legally protected free speech (national security issues aside, of course).

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney.

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You're mostly correct, but even commercial uses can be considered fair use. For example, a commercial web blog or online magazine / news site can still claim fair use when they include a screen shot in an article. The author is being paid to write the article, and the article itself is being used to generate ad revenue for the site. It's still fair use though. –  Lèse majesté Jan 12 '13 at 5:25
    
So, in summary, I don't need to inform the webmaster? –  faulty Jan 12 '13 at 6:05
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No, you don't need to do that at all. You're covered by fair use. –  Kenzo Jan 12 '13 at 6:05
    
@Kenzo Noted with thanks –  faulty Jan 12 '13 at 6:09
    
@Lèse majesté Good point, but the parties in question in your example are being paid to comment about the original item. It's very similar to a movie review. When I said, "make money off of someone else's work," I meant it in the narrower sense of trying to sell the original content itself, not making commentary on that content. –  Kenzo Jan 12 '13 at 6:14

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