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Embedded Covert Art Legal Issues

Currently MB seems to be struggling a bit with the legal issues of adding cover images, this is a place where I just dump my random thoughts on the subject and keep track of related information found elsewhere. The official guideline is at CoverArtSites.


DISCLAIMER: This is MY understanding of the current situation, I don't speak on behalf of musicbrainz.

There are two issues to consider when deep-linking cover art:

  • musicbrainz gets a lot of visitors, we don't want to drive up bandwidth costs of the sites we deeplink images from without having proper permissions of their respective owners.
  • most cover art is copyrighted, we need to abide by copyright law as much as we can, and reduce the risk or impact of being in violation of copyright law where we enter into gray areas.

The first issue, contacting sites and arranging deeplinking permission is usually the easy part. E.g. online retailers will be happy to allow that in exchange for a 'buy now' link/button.

Copyright Law

My first impression when thinking about embedded cover art is that the resulting page would constitute a derived work under copyright law. However, because there is no creative input into the process, that appears to not be true, at least in the US. MusicBrainz does not host cover art images, so there is no (other) copying being done by musicbrainz to which copyright law could apply.

It is probably worthwhile to find actual court cases dealing with similar situations in the US (and in other countries too, should musicbrainz ever wish to use mirrors outside the US).

US Case Law

brianfreud found some stuff already (irc log), I need to read it and provide links + write a little summary here.

Jurisprudence in the Netherlands

(NOTE: most links lead to articles/sites in dutch, for obvious reasons).

iusmentis contains an article which sums up when linking is legal, based on how the courts have decided. The article covers all forms of linking and framing. Also interesting, 'aansprakelijkheid' of hosting providers, again at iusmentis.

UPDATE: some more iusmentis links, this time dealing with 'beeldcitaat' (literally: image quote), and a bit about thumbnails at google, .

There have recently been two cases which deal with embedded cover art:

  • iusmentis rechtspraak The owner of a blog was found in violation of copyright law, she was deep linking to the image of a painting on the website of the author of said painting.

  • iusmentis rechtspraak A user of the popular profile/networking site was deep linking to a painting on the artist' website. CU2 states in its Terms of Service that users of the site are not allowed to link to images without permission of the owner of the image. When CU2 was informed of the violation they immediately complied and removed the link. CU2 was not found guilty, as they promptly responded to the request to have the link removed. Furthermore, their TOS are clear and CU2 is not responsible for users who do not follow the TOS.