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For our website, we sometimes re-syndicate articles and blog posts that mention our organization in our own blog on our site. We summarize the article, and include a link back to the original source.

To help speed creation of such blog posts, I created a feature that uses the opengraph protocol to pre-populate one of our blog posts. These are edited before they are published. Part of this feature is the usage of the image specified in the og:image tag. Basically, this feature is almost identical to what happens when one shares a link on Facebook, etc.

But, with this new feature, my organization has asked me about the licensing for the image grabbed from the og tag. I explained to them that the image is explicitly expressed as what should be used in an "image" preview of the article. My position was basically that, yes, the image is subject to copyright restrictions, as are all images, but when it is specified as the og:image in the opengraph protocol, then they are giving explicit permission to use in social media sharing.

However they want to be more certain about the licensing and copyright implications. I've done some googling, but I haven't found anything that specifically mentions copyright or licensing in regards to the og:image.

Is it okay to serve the og image when linking back to the original article or post?

  • There is no clear license agreement associated with Open Graph and content syndication. I would tend to agree with your opinion that it was intended to be shared on other sites since link building is important for SEO and this helps them. They could implement some kind of cross-origin blocking protocol if they don't want the image hot-linked. Downloading and serving the image yourself could be a different matter, but I might would imagine you are generally safe and doing them a favor by syndicating their content. – tshimkus Oct 18 at 23:40
  • Is there some kind of editorial process where somebody could simply ask before sharing or are these articles being scraped somehow? – tshimkus Oct 18 at 23:41
  • @tshimkus re: editorial process, not really. I'm pretty sure facebook is not asking people if they can share a site's content when some random facebook user posts a link – user4994 Oct 19 at 0:15
  • Facebook is definitely not asking anybody's permission and they might remove content if it was flagged by the owner. I asked if somebody was manually sharing these articles and if they could ping the site owner and ask for permission if intellectual property was a concern. I would be very surprised if anybody ever said "no, please do not share my article on your site." – tshimkus Oct 19 at 0:37
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    [NOTE: I am not a lawyer] I'm not actually suggesting that somebody asks for sharing permission each time. I can't imagine any case where this could result in legal action. The worst I could imagine is a court ordered cease-and-desist if they already asked you to remove it and you did not. Open Graph tagging might be implicit consent to share but it's not explicit. This seems like one of those cases where it's better to ask forgiveness than permission. The original publisher ultimately owns the copyright to their material and whatever rights that entail. – tshimkus Oct 19 at 1:27
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I can't imagine any case where this could result in legal action. The worst I could imagine is a court ordered cease-and-desist if they already asked you to remove it and you did not.

There is no clear license agreement associated with Open Graph and content syndication. I would tend to agree with your opinion that it was intended to be shared on other sites since link building is important for SEO and this helps them. They could implement some kind of cross-origin blocking protocol if they don't want the image hot-linked.

Downloading and serving the image yourself (as Facebook does) could be a different matter. In there case the image is usually cropped and from what I can tell is not indexed by image search.

Open Graph tagging might be implicit consent to share but it's not explicit. This seems like one of those cases where it's better to ask forgiveness than permission. I'd say go ahead and share it and if the content owner asks you to remove it you can respect their wishes.

The original publisher ultimately owns the copyright to their material and whatever rights that entail.

Disclaimer: I a not an intellectual property lawyer

  • I had to deal with trademark and copyright issues as an IT consultant for 30 years. I am not a lawyer either. You nailed it! Cheers! – closetnoc Oct 21 at 14:59

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