I am writing a book on web design, titled Best website design. I will list photos of some good-looking portfolio websites in the book. Do I need to take permission from the website owner? Will it be copyright infringement if I use it without permission?

I am quite confused.

  • You can always ask the web owner by sending them an email or message. I think it always comes down to asking xD
    – Noralie
    Mar 5, 2016 at 23:33

2 Answers 2


IANAL, but I think this would be borderline. It's arguably "fair use", and sounds like it meets the exception specifically provided in copyright law for "review and criticism". But copying an entire web page is pushing it. I'd ask for permission, and if someone says no, don't use their site.

What you CAN do is, if you see something on a web site that you think is a good idea, make your own sample web page that embodies that good idea, but that is not copied from the original. For example, if you think the collection of colors used on a particular site is particularly attractive, easy to read, eye-catching, whatever, you could mock up a web page using those same colors but your own text. Etc.

  • The purpose of the work would actually be "education", not "review" or "criticism". And there is no fair use exception for "education". People actually do sometimes get into trouble for that. Fair use also doesn't cover trademarks... Which of course makes your actual answer just better, +1. Jun 26, 2016 at 1:33
  • One important point — you will want to give credit to the designer, for obvious reasons, but the person whose permission you actually need to use it is not the designer; it's the copyright owner. The copyright in Apple's site is almost certainly owned by the company, not the individual employee who designed it. SimiIarly, if the site's been designed by a contractor, I think it's pretty standard that he/she will sign copyright over to the new owner in order to get paid. You could end up in trouble if you 'get permission' from someone who's not empowered to give it.
    – Cakebox
    Jun 26, 2016 at 9:48
  • @VilleNiemi Well, actually, the relevant section of US copyright law says, " the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.". copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107 I think the OP's use would qualify as "scholarship" and possibly "teaching". But fair use is not a blank check, hence my actual suggestion.
    – Jay
    Jun 26, 2016 at 23:32
  • @VilleNiemi Yes, trademarks are different from copyrights, and that's a good point. I don't claim to know much about trademark law, so I'll just stop there.
    – Jay
    Jun 26, 2016 at 23:33
  • Scholarship refers to accessing copyrighted works for doing research, making extra copies of copyrighted works for doing research in groups or disseminating results of research to other scholars. Teaching refers a teacher making extra copies of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching students. Neither applies to publishing an educational book for the general public. Or really selling or publishing anything, only research and teaching are fair use, publishing is not. Jun 27, 2016 at 1:42

If you want to feature a gallery of websites that you think represent good Web design, just ask the designers of those sites. Most will be happy to say yes. Doesn’t matter whether it is fair use or not. You don’t want to publish and then see somebody complaining on social media that their site is in your book. It is also polite to ask.

You can also get the designer to provide a proper credit, for example “example.com — design by Milton B. Harmanfagle.”

Also, make sure to capture a really good rendering of each site so that you reward the designers permission to use their site by making that site look its best. There are many tools such as PageLayers (for Mac) that can render a high-resolution (i.e. 2x pixel ratio) full browser rendering of any website, including the part you would only see if you scroll, at multiple sizes to show responsive design.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.