I have added a picture to my answer. I did so by providing a link from my own web server and pasting the link to the image into the form ("from the web"). The software in the background silently however takes the image off my server, copies it over to imgur.com an hosts it from there - without informing me about it, and subjecting my image to the copyright and publishing rights of imgur - without my consent.

I think this is highly controversial. In my opinion one or more of the following should be happeneing:

  • Linked images should not be re-hosted at a 3rd party
  • There should be a notice about that when uploading an image
  • there should be a notice about the distribution/copyright issues when uploading an image

Further I see an issue with linking images from 3rd-party websites to SE. I wonder how this is an issue in terms of copyright. I have myself linked pictures in answers from 3rd party sites. And I am not sure how this action is legal from my side, and how it is legal from imgur to host these images, as well how the situation for SE is.

  • @RoflcoptrException fine with me!
    – uncovery
    Apr 4, 2013 at 9:02
  • @RoflcoptrException: Agreed. This is a network-wide feature, and changes for Travel-SE specifically are unlikely. Re copyright issue: all content of SE sites is licensed CC-BY-SA, to which you agree to when you post content on the site. I'm sure more about this is to be had on MSO. Apr 4, 2013 at 9:03

2 Answers 2


Linked images should not be re-hosted at a 3rd party

Yes they should. Or at the very least they should not be hosted on your own server. There is no guarantee whatsoever that those images will stay around. Something which will be less of an issue with Stack Exchange's Imgur hosting.

Note that "Imgur's "normal" terms of service do not apply to pictures you upload through Stack Exchange."

There should be a notice about that when uploading an image

Perhaps. I don't really see an issue with not explicitly informing users that this happens, but a one time notice might not be terrible. I certainly wouldn't want to be notified each time I upload an image.

there should be a notice about the distribution/copyright issues when uploading an image

Any content you post on SO/SE is licensed using CC-BY-SA. If this is something you don't agree with, the only option is to not post content you can't or do not want to license as such.

  • 1
    When writing "notice" I also do not want to have a popup each time. But the window where you upload the image, there could be a text saying "This image will be copied to imgur.com and hosted under THEIR license. Click for more info". Also, the usage rights at imgur might be different or change from those at SE.
    – uncovery
    Apr 4, 2013 at 11:55
  • 4
    @uncovery Keep in mind though that it will NOT be hosted under Imgur's license. It will be hosted under SO/SE's terms and conditions. Follow the link I have put in my answer.
    – Bart
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:00
  • thanks! It would be great if a link in the upload window could tell that to users!
    – uncovery
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:09
  • 2
    6+ years on. Your last paragraph both highlights and miosses his point. He posted a LINK to avoid posting an image "SE" used the link to access the image and copied it to a 3rd party site (Imgur in this case). In almost every case that's copyright vilation. | Postinga a :INK to an image in a CCbyxxx document does NOT give anyone any rights to the image. Sep 12, 2019 at 5:57
  • @RussellMcMahon No that is not what OP said. He says he posted it directly into the add image box. So his intent was to display an image IMHO.
    – Luuklag
    Oct 14, 2019 at 10:24

Good point. I do agree that some sort of disclaimer should indeed be added especially when there is no way to delete a picture that was added.

However note that you can show external images in your posts without copying them to other hosting, this is done by using the raw <img> tag:

<img src="full image URL here" />

For example:

<img src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-TEfsiTobQDo/URX3wgSM4NI/AAAAAAAABtU/QJ5UThTjD2o/s1600/Cute+Cats+Wallpapers+21.jpg" />

Which results in:

  • 9
    But please please please don't do that. It does not change the licensing (afaik) and provides no guarantee that the image will stay around. If it's an essential part of your post, just use SO's hosting via Imgur.
    – Bart
    Apr 4, 2013 at 9:56
  • 4
    @Bart some pictures might be indeed protected under various copyright terms, in such cases it's illegal to have it copied to different host. Apr 4, 2013 at 9:57
  • 3
    We would need a bunch of laywers to answer this, but if you embed an image like this in a CC-licensed post, I would not be so sure that the image would escape the CC license Apr 4, 2013 at 9:57
  • @ShaWizDowArd In such cases, don't post it on SO.
    – Bart
    Apr 4, 2013 at 9:58
  • 1
    @ShaWizDowArd Hotlinking the image is still a copyright violation if you don't have the right to the image. Apr 4, 2013 at 9:58
  • @Mad OK, might be true I'm not really familiar with the legal aspects. Still, important to know such option exists. Apr 4, 2013 at 9:59
  • There should be then also a disclaimer that you should only link images that you actually have the rights for!
    – uncovery
    Apr 4, 2013 at 11:57
  • -1, not because this answer is wrong, but to indicate that such a practice is strongly discouraged. Apr 5, 2013 at 4:10
  • @Cody fair enough, brought this as alternative only never said it's good practice. Apr 5, 2013 at 5:55
  • 1
    Case in point (picture) Feb 7, 2015 at 6:37
  • @Mr.Mindor thanks, my bot isn't smart enough to detect the meaning of answers like this. I think it's better now.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Oct 11, 2019 at 21:34
  • There might be a slight privacy concern with users pulling images from arbitrary domains (beacons and things like that).
    – David A
    Oct 11, 2019 at 22:21
  • @DavidA It's not the slight privacy ..." that is mainly at issue - it's the rampant violation of copyright when linked images are illegally copied to Imgur regardless of licencing conditions. The display of an image as above may be wept and wailed about by many (and is) but provides a halfway house. It would be possible, should SE care to do so, to provide a repository of images that retain the original licencing terms, but which are 'hot linked' as above. As long as it was clear that such images had non CCxxx licensing it would go a long way towards 'fixing' the issues discussed. Oct 14, 2019 at 12:24
  • Perhaps they should require users to grant license to any picture that might be subject to copying. There's no way to prove that the poster is authorized to do this, but it might at least deal with some of the liability. Sites with existing agreements could be whitelisted, and failure to agree could strip the img tags.
    – David A
    Oct 14, 2019 at 12:52

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