Nashua, NH asked in Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark for New Hampshire

Q: I started a video game news/blog site. Can I legally use screenshots and game images found online when writing on them?

In order to ask for permission and wait for an answer from each video game publisher, I would never actually be able to publish anything myself. I am wondering if it is ok to use images from games I find on company's social media sites, and elsewhere, when discussing or reporting on them, and if commenting on a specific feature about a game (for example, an in-game map. Would it be ok to post said map in the blog post?). Thanks!

1 Lawyer Answer
Will Blackton
Will Blackton
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Raleigh, NC

A: To answer your question directly: No, it would not be legal to use screenshots and game images found online when writing for your video game news/blog site.

If you're going to repost screenshots of images created by video game publishers without their permission, you are opening up liability for a copyright infringement lawsuit. Depending on the use, you may have a fairly strong argument that your use qualifies as "fair use," however, fair use is a defense to a copyright infringement action. That means that you'd have to pay an attorney to defend your use after any number of video game publishers sue you. Even if you have a rock-solid defense of fair use, it doesn't necessarily prevent a lawsuit from being filed in the first place.

Although video game publishers *could* sue for infringement for review sites using their copyrighted content, many do not because it's free advertising for their games. So, they may have a civil cause of action, but it would not be in their economic interest to pursue a lawsuit, so they choose to not sue in these circumstances. Getting written permission for each instance of use is going to be the best way to avoid liability for intellectual property infringement. If you're not going to seek permission, at least search for "[specific gaming publisher]" and "copyright infringement," to see if they're particularly litigious.

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