Collecting product pictures over internet, processing it and selling to eshops - legal?


Given that to be protected by copyright, a picture must be original/unique, I have read on the internet that the "product pictures" (of general use products like fridge, mobile phone etc.) are not considered as unique and thus are not under copyright. Is this true? Or do I need an approval from every producer?

If yes, at a first glance (just to see if it worths to spend more time about thinking of the idea & asking a lawyer) would this case be legal?:

  • I search on the internet the product pictures (from producer's websites and from e-shops not using watermark) & download them
  • name and sort them with a specific uniform way
  • sell the whole database to new eshops needing pictures or established eshops where these pictures are missing

The added value: the collecting (getting pictures from dozens of sources to one database) + the sorting/naming.

Remark: I don't want to collect the description texts! Only pictures.

Legal Website Ethics Copyright

asked Aug 29 '13 at 18:07
Data Smarter
1,274 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • Photographs are also copyright of the photographer. This seems like a bad business idea. Too much work collecting, and selling something of very low value. The effort could be better spent on something else. – Frank 6 years ago
  • to Frank: Just to make it clearer: what about the "unicity" of the picture? If you have a picture of a TV, there are several "same pictures" all over the internet. So you even can't know who is the photographer. And about the value - you think that eshop owners are not ready to pay for such a service? It can save them hours and hours of work. And clients like it - it's almost a necessity... Nevertheless in your opinion it doesn't worth it? – Data Smarter 6 years ago
  • Even though the copyright is not enforced, or you dont know who the original photographer is, it doesnt mean its not copyright. The problem with your business model is you are assuming the pictures copyright owner doesnt care about their rights. If i own an eshop and subscribe to your service, Id go nutts if suddenly a photographer finds their image on my site and now I have a lawsuit. This is why Stock Photos exist. Stock photos are cheap. Doesnt leave you much room for profit or space. I ran into something like this for auto photos, and ended up purchasing from evox and edmunds. – Frank 6 years ago

2 Answers


I think you're confusing taking a photo of a product not being a violation of copyright with the copyright of photos someone has taken of a product.

If you have a refrigerator in your kitchen, and you take a photo of it and sell it, you're not violating the copyright of the refrigerator manufacturer on their design. It's a mass-produced consumer product -- not unique.

If you have a painting in your living room, and you take a photo of it (or scan it, or get out your water colors and paint a copy of it) and sell it, you are violating the painter's copyright. It's a unique original work (or even if it's a print, it's a licensed reproduction of a unique original work) that's protected by copyright.

Likewise, every photo on the web is a unique original work protected by copyright unless its been specifically released into the public domain or been given another license. If you make a copy of it and sell it, you're violating the photographer's copyright (or that of the company that purchased the copyright from the photographer).

Thus, I don't think your idea as proposed is legal. But I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

answered Oct 1 '13 at 04:10
Jay Neely
6,050 points


It all depends on what your doing and how you sell them. Fair use law might come into play. Good Article on the subject: Depending on what you are doing perhaps stick with Creative Commons or just buy them from a royalty free stock photo company.

answered Aug 29 '13 at 21:59
Ross Mann
546 points
  • This kind of pictures is nor in CC nor in photo databases. As source, imagine an eshop with dozens of fridges - there is a picture that represents each product. And 2nd source: producers itself: like Adidas and pictures of its shoes. And the target group is creators of new eshops who need pictures to add to their product description (or existing ones that are missing some pictures). To be even more clear, just put e.g. "Whirlpool AMW 491 IX" (=microwave oven) in google images and you will immediately see what kind of pictures I mean... – Data Smarter 6 years ago
  • So will the user of your service actually match your image up with the actual product in their store? If so then I think (I am not a lawyer) you could argue that you are making money off organizing manufacture photos and selling the index not the photos themselves... – Ross Mann 6 years ago
  • That is exactly my point. The idea of selling the index sounds interesting... – Data Smarter 6 years ago
  • I wonder if you source the location somewhere in the admin panels of your site , not on the resulting image or the resulting linkable code, but in the account admin panel. Then it might provide you with extra cover. – Ross Mann 6 years ago

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Legal Website Ethics Copyright