Featured Images (Open Graph), Sharing & Copyright


Jul 18, 2016
I'm going to try and keep this short, but I've been looking all over the Internet for answers to these questions and I can't seem to find any. So here goes...

One huge advantage that I see social media having over forums is the way they format shared content--specifically links. Yes, you can embed youtube videos and twitter posts directly into a thread...but there's nothing attention grabbing on the forum overview page--like your social media timeline.

If you want to share a link on a forum, you need click post new thread in the proper category or forum, give the thread a title, paste the link in the message box, and then submit the thread. Congratulations, you've now got a really boring text only link in your forum thread.

If you want to share a link on social media, you paste the link into the "what's on your mind" box and hit publish. Not only is it super easy, but you automatically get a formatted box showing the title of the article, a preview image and even a preview description, all fetched from the article (or other site's) open graph meta data.

I don't think forums can do this without custom coding. But let's say, for example, that a forum managed to create a sharing system just like social media, and a portal home page has tons of links to articles, and the links grabbed all the open graph metadata and is displaying all the fancy images on the portal home page. Maybe something like reddit.

Where does the featured image, which is grabbed from an external site, get copied to? Does the social media site simply hotlink to it, or is it grabbed and then stored onto the social media servers? If it's copied, isn't this copyright infringement? The external site has a license to use the photo, but not the social media site. If this, in fact, is what they're doing (and I'm saying I don't know how they do it), and assuming they aren't hotlinkinking to/embedding these images, how do they get away with this? Is it because they're so big, they're not afraid to get sued? Is it because of section 230?

I've gotten a payment demand from Getty Images before and believe me, it's not a pleasant experience.

I just kinda feel like if I were to make a forum with features found on social media, I'd be getting whacked with all kinds of cease and desists, lawsuits, etc for having all these unlicensed images on my servers.



Apr 27, 2010
I'm not a copyrights expert, but there's a big difference between taking an image from somewhere and uploading to your forum (Getty Images example) and generating a link (with feature image) to an article elsewhere via Open Graph.

In the first case, you are copying someone's work and publishing it on your site. That's clearly a violation of their copyrights, unless you have express permission to do so.

In the second case, you are using meta content the copyright holder has chosen to share. The image, heading, and description are embedded as a single object which links back to the original source content. What you are storing on your site is just a reference pointer to the content source. In that way, it's no different from posting a text link to the article.


Magical Developer
Apr 25, 2019
It could be argued that that text is intended to be placed on seach engines or aggregators by it's mere presence in that meta tag. It might be a bit dicey under Article 11 however.