This ruling will affect many genealogists who are building or are maintaining web sites:
A Virginia federal court has made a decision that photographers won’t be happy to hear: the court ruled that finding a photo on the Internet and then using it without permission on a commercial website can be considered fair use.
In the United States, whether or not a use of copyrighted material without permission can be considered fair use (17 U.S. Code § 107) depends on four main factors: (1) the purpose and character of the use (including whether it’s “transformative” and commercial vs. non-commercial), (2) the nature of the copyrighted work, (3) how much of the work is used, and (4) how much the use affects the market and/or value of the work.
After considering these four factors, District Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia concluded that the paintiff’s use of Brammer’s photo fit the criteria for fair use.
I suspect this is not the final answer. I am certain this ruling will be appealed.
This story has become a major news story. You can find dozens of web sites describing it by starting at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Court+Rules+Copying+Photos+Found+on+Internet+is+Fair+Use&t=h_&ia=images.