I was reading this topic about users posting content to a community and not having the right to "take it down" later on. It got me to thinking about communities which might have a system to automatically pull in, say, images which are included in a post but hosted externally. The main reason the community might do this would be to prevent link rot and prevent holes in the discussion should the external copy of the image go away at some point in the future.

For example, a forum has a license grant that states that anything posted to the site is effectively licensed to the community, etc. So if someone uploads a photo, that photo is licensed to the site.

Would that same grant also apply to external images shown (not just linked to) in a post that are physically hosted elsewhere? Say, images the user owns which might be hosted in their flickr account, etc.

So could the community, in that instance, rightfully retrieve a copy of that externally hosted image and store it on the community's servers, and be protected against the user requesting deletion down the road, in the same way as if the user physically uploaded the file initially?

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    Where does some CC license come in to the picture?
    – Martijn
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 7:11

1 Answer 1


A post licensed to some forum that includes a link does not give the forum an implied license for the target of the link.

This is obviously the case for links to images or documents that are not owned by the author of the post. I can include links to all sorts of stuff, but they don't come with an implied license; I'm not even able to grant a license for them.

This doesn't change for links to things that are in fact owned by you. There is generally no, or not a large difference between posting links to some content, and "deep linking" the image where your browser displays the image hosted elsewhere from a forum web page. See, for example, Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc.

There is probably some way to concoct terms of use that explicitly include that any material owned by you, and linked to from a forum post grants some license to the forum (you can't effectively license anything to "the community" since "the community" is not a legal entity.)

Of course, if the linked work is under an open source license, you are already free to re-use it, as this is guaranteed under the open source definition.

  • Interesting reading. How then, does an organization like the Internet Archive (archive.org) get past license issues? The Internet Archives systems retrieve and store content of hundreds of millions of websites, much of which would likely not be licensed...
    – GWR
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 18:56
  • Good question! I don't know.
    – Martijn
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 7:08
  • @robarwebservices newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/cobweb is a nice article on it. I believe it comes down to YOLO. A question on law.stackexchange.com might be interesting.
    – Martijn
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 11:18
  • Yes, I think you are right. E.g. retrieve a copyrighted, unlicensed piece of work, store it, and make it available publically, and only remove it if the owner requests it. It's akin to "do it now, ask permission later" I suppose - in that the owners can have content removed after the fact (manually, or if a person still owns the domain, via the robots.txt), and archive.org obliges without protest.
    – GWR
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 13:39

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