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Question: Can I post a copyrighted image on my website?
Answer: Maybe. In order to determine whether you can post a copyrighted image on your website, a court would apply the four factor fair use analysis.
First, it is important to determine the purpose and character of the use. If the use is commercial in nature, rather than for nonprofit education purposes, it less likely to be considered a fair use. To determine if it is commercial, a court would consider whether the use was exploitative and for direct profit, or if instead any commercial character was incidental. Also, if the use is transformative and for a different purpose than the original work, it is more likely the first factor will weigh in favor of finding a fair use. For example, in Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corporation, the court found that posting "thumbnail" images on a website was a fair use because such images served a different purpose than the original images.
Second, the court would consider the nature of the copyrighted work. The reproduction of a predominantly factual work is more likely to be considred a fair use than the reproduction of a highly creative one.
Third, it is important to consider the amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted image used. This inquiry looks at not only the quantity, but also on the expressive value, of the portion used. If a large amount of the original image is copied, or if the portion copied is substantially significant to the work as a whole, it is less likely the court will find such copying to be a fair use.
Finally, the most important factor in this inquiry is the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyright owner's work. If posting the image on the website leads to a reduction in sales of the copyrighted work or discourages people from accessing the copyright owner's website, a court is more likely to find that the use is not fair and has an adverse impact on the copyright owner's market.
These four factors will be evaluated by a court in a factual inquiry to determine whether the posting of the image would constitute a fair use.