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Often new users will upload screenshots to e.g. dropbox, instead of embedding in the post.

If embedded in the post via the button in the toolbar, SE will upload the image from the existing host to the default imgur host. This takes the image out of the OP's control, e.g. they can no longer delete it from the internet if they wish (as they could if it were solely on dropbox).

On the other hand, if embedded via manually entered markdown as a hotlink, e.g.

![some description](http://somehost/someimage.png)

Then the screenshot will disappear from the post if it's deleted or the host stops hosting it.

Which is preferable? Is there any legal issue here? (uploading OP's image to SE's imgur host without their permission?)

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It's "okay" to use a screenshot if you have permission to use that image or the content is licensed for reuse. If you do not have permission to use the image, you are infringing on their Copyright. The issue of whether you are storing that image elsewhere or simply "embedding" their content from the original site has no bearing on Copyright.

The reason we automatically upload all images to 'imgur' is precisely as you stated: We do not want the screenshot to disappear or change if the image is changed on the original host. But if you have permission to use that image, there are no legal issues at all. "Embedding" an image instead of downloading it is not a workaround to Copyright law.

I would also note that, in the US, there are exceptions to Copyright law called "Fair Use" which allows for limited use of copyrighted material… but that is outside the scope of this post.

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  • $\begingroup$ So does this mean it's not okay to upload an OP's images to imgur via SE without asking them first? How should this be handled? $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Oct 30 '14 at 17:15

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