I really appreciate questions with images, because they often help to specify what is being asked and pep up long text passages.

But what are the rules for adding images of movie scenes

  • taken as a screenshot from bluray/dvd/etc
  • taken from official trailers
  • taken from other pages (blogs, imdb, ...)

Copyright law is an awfully large and complex field and I am really not sure what is legal and what's not anymore.

Assuming it is ok to screenshot movie scenes, is it still ok to take screenshotted material from other sites? I doubt they have any right on those images, do they?

Also, do the same rules apply to everyone in the same way on Stackexchange, no matter where they are from? I know in the USA there is a thing called "fair use", but I am not sure we have something like this here in Germany.

Can I be hold responsible for copyright violations here on SE or is SE responsible as a "hoster" of some sort.

I hope someone can clear this up, I wouldn't be too happy if one day I get a bunch of cease-and-desist orders in the mail one day. (the lawyers here really like those)

3 Answers 3


Can we safely add images to questions and answers?


Copyright. Using copyrighted material does not constitute infringement in all cases. In general, however, users should be careful when using copyrighted content without the permission of those who created it. It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA").


Which basically means this is why no moderator has removed any images. He could if felt inclined that copyright was being infringed but it's not his job. An employee will do it if they receive a take down notice or some sort of claim.

But in order to limit legal liability to Stack Exchange we should adopt a policy for M & TV similar to the format shown in Wikipedia

e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korkoro

This way it explicitly states that screenshot images are used only for critical discussion of the film.

For other websites, I think it's better to use your own (or none at all) and show the proper format (as I proposed earlier). These websites are citing for themselves not for those who link images from their site.

I think this is a very valid question at least in terms of how the Stack Exchange Imgur account is set up. I cannot see how easy it will be to hunt back through images that infringe on copyright.

Short version
I think you are safe, but I think SE should provide a non-free content policy for images.


As stated in the other posts, Copyright law is extremely complicated. I am not a lawyer, so I am not going to pretend to give you unassailable legal advice —

So let's start with a bit of background and just enough common sense so not to get too dangerous:

The issue of "safely adding images" falls primarily under the clauses of "Fair Use" of US Copyright law. The concept of fair use permits limited use of copyrighted material for things like teaching, reporting, and criticism. That mean if (for example) you are writing a critical analysis of a book, you are allowed to show the cover of that book to help describe what you are talking about, or to cite a short passage from that book to illustrate a point.

But almost all fair use cases describe a general rule that no more of the copy or trademark work should be used than is necessary for the legitimate purpose. What that means, essentially, is that we should try to work within the bounds of common sense. For the purpose of operating your site (without getting into a bunch of legal hassles), you should concern yourself primarily with editing for valid and relevant content. If a photo or movie clip does not substantially add to the post, it should be removed. If the content is obviously infringing, it should be removed.

A lawyer might be able to argue the nitty gritty of "what you can get away with," but let's err towards keeping the site running smoothly without attracting these legal hassles. There's very rarely anything to be gained by flaunting those screen caps you found on some site hosted across the border.

Sorry I am not able to give you a better be-all-end-all guide to what's allowed and what is not. Sometimes it is simply easier to avoid the issue altogether.

  • As you said, "fair use" is a US thing. So does that even apply to me as the uploader even if I'm not from the US?
    – magnattic
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 22:09
  • 2
    @atticae Our servers are based in the US so we are bound by those laws. I'm not familiar with the issues of legal liability or enforcement from your point of view, but in terms of this site's policy going forward, you should abide by those policies. Commented Apr 25, 2012 at 15:39
  • "fair use" is not only a US thing; it is part of the international Berne Convention that most countries use as the basis for their copyright law.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 12:02

Without any backup from the team, I will post my thoughts.

I have not heard of any site or any company taking a case against SE as of yet. The moderators actually just received a newsletter containing what to do with any copyright claims and we were essentially told not to handle any actual copyright claims and to forward anything we hear to the team themselves.

That said, I think the only ones that can actually come at us with these claims are the owners of the movies, series, etc. With that in mind, (keep in mind, my thoughts based on what I know of at least US copyright laws) I don't think this applies to us at all and here's why:

We are not taking credit for creating these images There is no theft going on, purely copying from easily available sources (typically the first few images on a Google search) which usually link back to the production company's site of the movie; thus giving them free publicity.

I am waiting for official word from the team themselves or at least another mod that may know more (like someone on scifi, etc). Until then, these are my thoughts on the matter:

Images are fine to add to questions so long as they actually improve the question and are not just spam.

If an issue does occur, expect it to be posted on Meta like anything else :) Until then, have at it.

  • Thanks. That still leaves open though if I would be personally responsible here for uploaded/linked images or if it would be SE's problem.
    – magnattic
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 2:24
  • @atticae Aye, I have tossed an e-mail to the team for clarification. They are all busy this week with various things, however so the response might be a bit delayed, stay tuned :)
    – Tablemaker
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 2:26
  • @TylerShads We saw your email and we'll get back to you. :)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 19:51
  • 2
    @atticae There is no provision in Copyright law that gives you a free pass in the sense of "it would be SE's problem" if you posted something illegal. We are responsible for removing material if we receive a DMCA takedown notice, but you are ultimately responsible for the legality (or not) of the material you publish. Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 18:48

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