Can I use pictures and information posted to a public site for profit?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I use pictures and information posted to a public site for profit?

I’d like to compile information and pictures from a dating website into a
consumer product. If other people voluntarily send me the information, and I’m
not the one copying it, just the person who compiles it, am I liable? I see other
websites posting the images from the dating website, where they make profits from

Asked on April 1, 2016 under Business Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Just because something is publically viewable on a website does NOT make it public domain: the pictures and other information will still almost certainly be owned by the website and/or by the contributors who provided it in the first place. And someone is liable for copyright infringement if they compile or publish copyrighted material, even if they are not the ones who copied it. Only if the material are specifically placed in the public domain--made legally available for anyone's use--could it be used this way safely; if it is public domain, there will generally be some notice of that, so in the absence of notice, assume it is copyrighted and protected.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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