Asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Florida

Q: Is using thumbnails copyright infringement?

I own a cosmetics review and ranking website and I need photos for my reviews.Can I use under fair use low quality thumbnails of products photos from other websites (sephora, brandcoms etc)?

1 Lawyer Answer
James D. Williams
James D. Williams
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Richmond, VA

A: There are 4 factors for fair use that are all reviewed, so it would require a review of all factors before fair use would be a claim.

If you are using the photos to review and rank products, then there is a decent chance that you are using the images for "commentary" or "criticism" and would qualify as fair use.

There will be a question of whether it was necessary to include the images. If it's a review that doesn't require that product image, then that could be something leaning against your fair use case.

For copyright, outside of the fair use process, if you're able to request for permission to use the photos, then it's usually a good idea. Sometimes it's free and other times there are licensing fees associated, but it's the safe option. Otherwise, trying to emphasize that you are using the images solely for commentary/criticism is the best bet.

You might run into other problems if the thumbnails also have the logos of Sephora/brandcom/etc. because there is a slightly different approach to copying those logos. That's just because it's related to trademark law and not necessarily copyright, but it's not likely to be a problem considering you are, in theory, only reviewing the products and not selling them.

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