Ref: How to deal with image links, uploads, reliability and copyright when editing?

If a question is entirely reliant on an external image - very probably copyright to someone other than the poster, what do we think about massively spoilering it to upload here? Not just a subtle watermark, but in such a way that the essence of the question is preserved, but any possible re-use of the image is totally destroyed?

An example - my own pic…

enter image description here

I've used two spoiler methods here, just as an example of possibilities.

Imagine either of these will kill the 'value' of the image, without killing the question.
What do we think?

This was triggered by Outdoor lighting: is this natural light or a graphic effect? where once that temporary image location disappears, there is no question left.

  • downvoted, implying "no we shouldn't". (voting works different on meta. Worthwhile discussion, my DV didn't mean to imply this meta subject isn't worthy or OT. =)
    – scottbb Mod
    Jul 29, 2021 at 21:18
  • 1
    @scottbb - no worries. I'm quite familiar with the difference in vote meaning on meta. I had toyed with the idea of setting up two answer. 'yes we should' vs 'no we shoudn't', but I didn't think the answers could actually be that back & white.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 30, 2021 at 7:38
  • @Tetsujin poll answers are also generally discouraged on meta. Largely for exactly the reason you alluded to.
    – AJ Henderson Mod
    Aug 4, 2021 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


what do we think about massively spoilering it to upload here? Not just a subtle watermark, but in such a way that the essence of the question is preserved, but any possible re-use of the image is totally destroyed?

IMO, this is not necessary, and perhaps even not advisable. Why should people other than the asker go through the work to scale down, "bowdlerize", or otherwise create a derivative work to upload? We shouldn't.

The simple thing is to ask the asker to edit their question to upload the image into the question. It's not up to us, or even Stack Exchange, to take it upon ourselves to try to enforce somebody's copyright, or attempt to make our own interpretation of what is acceptable "transformation" of 3rd party work. We're not lawyers.

Personally, I would be okay with closing such questions if they don't explicitly upload the image to their question AND cite attribution in the question text. Yes, that would be asking the OQ to upload a 3rd party image, probably without their consent. But it's not clear if the consent is needed (i.e., does it constitute fair use), and regardless, Stack Exchange responds to all DMCA takedown requests per their policy.

Citing Shog9's answer to: I'm tired of whining about copyright violations. Can we get an official solution?:

The not my job game

Now, back to the "it's not your job to enforce this" bit...

It's not your job to enforce anyone else's copyright. And in most cases, you probably shouldn't try...

...But that's not to say we can't establish and enforce some policies here on Photography.SE that serve to discourage copyright violation, encourage quality content, and stand as clear, easy-to-interpret guidelines for both authors and reviewers.

For example:

  1. All images posted here must be either owned by the person posting them, or have their source clearly cited in the surrounding text.
  2. A post consisting solely of an image or images not owned by the author or authors of the post must be removed.
  3. Images containing photographic or artistic renditions of the duck-billed platypus will result in immediate suspension.
  4. ... In other words, it's your site - if you collectively decide to collectively enforce a set of rules governing the content posted here, that's your prerogative - you don't need (or particularly want) to lean on something as hairy as copyright law for your standards of quality - there are plenty of better reasons (ethical and practical) for excluding misrepresented, plagiarized or lazy content.

Related, Should we disallow hot-linking?. I'm not advocating disallowing hot-linking, but referring back to Shog9's answer above, in the case of "how do I achieve this effect?" questions, we can absolutely make that rule if we want to.

  • 1
    Whilst I do agree with this in principle, the entire essence of "how do I achieve this effect?" invariably relies on a source image not owned by the OP (otherwise, they'd probably know how they did it;) This tends to put the entire category into the 'question survives until the link rots' bucket. BTW, I do appreciate your comment under the specific post in question.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 30, 2021 at 7:43
  • 1
    @Tetsujin i used to fret about uploading others' stuff for the ''how do I achieve this''. But I've come around to embracing fair use a bit more. I'm not gonna worry about somebody reposting somebody else's Instagram post or blog too much. Especially if it's a screenshot from a phone app. That eases my conscience quite a bit.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jul 30, 2021 at 11:37
  • 1
    Then, of course, we get the 'helpful' 3rd party who inlines the image without accreditation, & links it back to the vanishing resource posted by the OP :/
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 30, 2021 at 14:49
  • 1
    @Tetsujin indeed, that is the risk. And to your point, maybe that's where we should be more vigilant up front, so while the question is "alive", we can hopefully convince OP to upload it themself. I'm much more comfortable doing minor copyediting for formatting, textual attribution tweaks, etc., if the OP would inline the image first. But long after the poster gets their answer and never comes back, these questions are largely cruft, IMO. There are a handful with really good answers especially showing clear examples, that should definitely be kept around.
    – scottbb Mod
    Jul 30, 2021 at 20:42
  • 1
    Agree. It has to be said, this particular one isn't exactly a shining example of the 'how to achieve' QA; but I do like this type of question… far more than the 'if I have a 6ft pole & a 35mm lens, how do I tell what the distance to xyz is?'
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 31, 2021 at 6:49
  • 1
    @Tetsujin I think I missed what you were referring to a couple comments above ("Then, of course, we get the 'helpful' ..."). I got it now. I just now updated the question on main that motivated this meta question, after I found the original image (w/ watermark) and photographer, and provided credit.
    – scottbb Mod
    Aug 14, 2021 at 20:23

I would agree with scottbb that I don't think we want to set a specific requirement on this, however, it might be worth taking a similar approach to "link only" posts. If we assume that a referenced image may be removed when it is known that the poster does not have the copyright, we could have a policy that the text of the post should also provide sufficient description of what is being asked so as to be possible to get value from the question and answers without the post in question.

This would also allow using hot-links to an artist's publicly posted work, which personally I would actually find preferable so long as the hot-linked image is not critical to the question or answer.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .