I would like to display some images on my website. This website got indexed content from different websites. It display content in a way that you have image, short description and link to website where this image and description come from.

My question is, can I create thumbnails from pictures which are crawled and show it from my server or should I refer to image from external server or is it illegal?

3 Answers 3


I don't think linking to the external server is illegal (but I am NOT a lawyer!).

Some thing to take into consideration:

  1. when using the external server they can (try to) block you from getting them. They wouldn't like the extra load on their servers, but then again if the get more traffix because of it.
  2. I would think it is fair use if you create a thumbnail of the images
  3. Expecially if you are something like a search engine (which looks like what you are doing)

But again I am not a lawyer.


There are existing information and search services (such as http://www.google.com/ and http://website.informer.com/) which create thumbnails of images or even of entire pages, then store and serve the images from their own servers.

Saving and serving exact copies of another sites images, or even hot-linking them, may be a breach of copyright.

Anywhere in-between is a grey area that even lawyers may struggle with.


For U.S. case law regarding the display of thumbnails in image search results, see e.g. Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. To quote from the Wikipedia article:

"The Ninth Circuit did, however, overturn the district court's decision that Google's thumbnails were infringing. Google's argument, which was upheld by the court, was a fair use defense. The appellate court ruled that Google's use of thumbnails was fair use, mainly because they were 'highly transformative.' Specifically, the court ruled that Google transformed the images from a use of entertainment and artistic expression to one of retrieving information, citing the similar case, Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation. The court reached this conclusion despite the fact that Perfect 10 was attempting to market thumbnail images for cell phones, with the court quipping that the 'potential harm to Perfect 10's market remains hypothetical.'"

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