Framing and scraping images on the Internet
Framing images on a website and scraping images from other websites are both copyright infringements, according to a Canadian court in a recent decision to be found here. Even though the decision was made under local law, it’s a useful reminder that the photos, videos and other content on the Internet is copyrighted and that information cannot generally be copied freely without the rightholder’s permission. There are some websites, such as Wikipedia, in which contributors agree – under the so-called creative commons licence – to allow others to share, use or build upon the material. Other website owners are much more restrictive and do not generally allow re-use of their material (although sharing through networks such as Facebook may be allowed).
In the Canadian case, the operator of a website selling cars obtained data from scraping other motor traders’ website. It argued that the images were not actually stored on its own server, but were framed within the website. In other words, the images were not copied. The court’s decision was, however, clear on this matter – the image was being made available to the public by being displayed on the website. It did not matter whether the image data was on the operator’s server or not.
The decision may have been made under Canadian law, but it’s probable that a European court would reach a similar conclusion. The operator may not have been copying the file, but it was displaying the images for its own commercial benefit and these images were copyrighted and used without permission.