Is it legally right to put movie/music/games cover art on a website?


We want to launch a website where we put information about movies, music and more.
Each item (movie, music etc.) will have it's own page. On this page there will be some information about the item, such as actor, author, artist.

We would also like to have the cover image for the product. Though we don't know if this is legally right to do. We will make money from the website but NOT from the images. We will have ads that other companies put on our website. The ads and money doesn't have any connection to the images.

We have been searching for answers for some time now and I see different answers wherever I go.

Many of the answers we've found mentions fair use. Though it really is a grey area.

Some say that you always have to ask for permission first, while some say that you really don't have to.

  1. So what is the real answer?
  2. What is the worst thing that could happen?

Legal Website Copyright

asked Feb 2 '13 at 04:17
Oskar Persson
109 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • I think the issue here is where are you getting the images? If you downloaded them from somewhere else you probably need permission. – Joe A 9 years ago
  • How does your website make money (i.e. what are your services) will be a factor on which side of the law you land on. – Global Nomad 9 years ago
  • I've shared a friend's experience in the answer. Hope it helps. – Global Nomad 9 years ago
  • I think you should be within fair use guidelines since the content is sourced from users. To me, this is synonymous with YouTube where users embed/use copyrighted materials within their own videos. – Joe A 9 years ago
  • +1 your question BTW it is relevant to startups. Unfortunately there are a few power user/moderator types that feel the need to mercilessly downvote Qs/As that don't fit their elitist startup Q&A worldview. – Joe A 9 years ago
  • @JoeA So just to be clear, you think this would be okay to do? – Oskar Persson 9 years ago
  • I think so but IANAL. I think Global nomad's answer is correct, better be safe that sorry. As an alternative, find a site with a similar model and figure out their approach, i.e. do they have a contact box for DCMA takedowns etc. – Joe A 9 years ago
  • @JoeA That is kind of one of the reasons I'm asking here. I can't really find what approach other sites use. – Oskar Persson 9 years ago
  • That's why I commented and didn't answer. There are a bunch of attorneys on here I'm sure one of them will eventually give a good answer. – Joe A 9 years ago

2 Answers


If your site offers critics (similar to Rotten Tomatoes) you may be covered under Fair Use so please consult a lawyer. On the other hand if your site display behind the scenes photos or alleged plot lines (which a friend of mine's fan site did), then you may receive a cease-and-desist like my friend did. Best to consult a lawyer with experience in this. If your site will generate interest for movies, why not approach the studio?

answered Feb 2 '13 at 06:39
Global Nomad
326 points
  • With "you may be covered under Fair Use", you mean I will be alright? The only images I will publish are poster and cover images. And what is really the worst thing that could happen? What does a cease-and-desist really mean? – Oskar Persson 9 years ago
  • +1 for consult an attorney. Copyright owners pay for searchers to discover infringers. Every so often they select a defendant to serve as an example. You don't want this. – Yorick 9 years ago


You can get sued. Or you can never hear from anyone.
Want to make a bet with your money or freedom?

Take those couple of hundreds of dollars. Prepare a good description of what you're trying to build and talk to an Copyright lawyer. It may save your business, your money and/or your personal freedom. Definitely worth it.

The music and film industry is vicious. They will not care if you lose your house and live on the streets with your children to make an example of you should they feel like it.

why risk? Talk to a lawyer before you commit your own money and time to build something that may simply never work as it may land you in a pile of doodoo.

answered Feb 2 '13 at 09:24
Ron M.
4,224 points
  • Okay, thanks for your answer. I think I know somebody we can talk to. – Oskar Persson 9 years ago

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