I think it’s safe to say that we have all been tempted to use Google Images on our website or blog. Google is awesome, and they make it incredibly easy to find the perfect image for a blog post, or page.
But what you may not realize is that Google Images are not free to use, and majority of them are copyrighted.
“But it’s on the internet! If it’s on Google then it’s free to use, right?”
Google doesn’t even own them. They are just the aggregator and are showing you images. Those images are copyrighted, and Google even tries to warn you.
Do an image search for anything, then click on the first image. The image will pop-up into a lightbox with details to the right hand side.
Do you see it?
The last line says, “Images may be subject to copyright.”
Use Your Own Images Or Else
Whenever I get a new website project I have clients sign my Terms and Conditions. It’s simple and straightforward, and basically states what each party is responsible for.
There is a section in there regarding copyrights that states:
You guarantee to us that any elements of text, graphics, photos, designs, trademarks, or other artwork that you provide us for inclusion in the web site are either owned by you, or that you have permission to use them.
Why is this in there? Because I don’t want to get sued or be held accountable for using a copyrighted image. People take that stuff serious these days!
A Shocking Fine
Lets say that you are using a few Google Images on your website, and you get caught.
What can happen? Well, that all depends on who catches you.
You could be asked to simply remove the image by the actual owner, and move on. On the other hand, you could get a nasty Unauthorized Use Notification from an agency’s Legal Department, with an even nastier fine attached.
Think I’m kidding? Think again!
I am working on a new site for a client, and just last week they received one of those Unauthorized Use Notifications from Getty Images.
For those not familiar with Getty Images, they are a worldwide leader in digital media, and have an awesome collection of stock photography, editorial images, video and music that they receive from some of the best creatives. They also have a robust system for monitoring and investigating potential copyright infringements.
The notice came, my client informed me, and I contacted Getty.
I explained to them my client’s situation and that they had no idea their previous web developer had used an unlicensed image.
The rep on the phone pointed me to the URL where the image in question was located, and then showed me the license for that image.
The image looked like it was being used on the page as a placeholder, and was probably found through Google. The page was unfinished but the damage was done because it was posted to the web.
Getty Images was able to find it and demand a pretty high settlement fee.
Images You Can Use
Don’t let this discourage you from using images on your website. You just need to make sure that you own them, or you have licensed permission to use them.
For some small business owners, licensing an image from Getty will be too expensive. Thankfully there are alternative licensing options in the form of “Royalty-Free”.
Royalty-Free does not mean that you are free to use the images. You must pay for the image, but once you do you have the right to use the image without additional royalty payments.
Some great places to get affordable Royalty-Free Stock Photos for your website are:
If purchasing stock photos is not your thing, then I absolutely recommend taking your own photos. This guarantees that you will not get into any trouble down the road.
The best part is that you are able to capture the exact shot you were imagining. Get creative and start taking your own photos. It will be a more honest reflection of your business or your blog.
There are millions of websites out there and I would bet that a good handful are using images they do not own or have permission to use.
I have had clients that give me images that they have found through search engines and want to use them throughout their site.
Their reasons are always understandable, and for the most part, their intentions are good. But the truth of the matter is that someone else owns that image and regardless of where you found it, you do not own it.
Even though you may never get caught using copyrighted images I wouldn’t risk it, and you shouldn’t either.
So stop using Google Images and start taking your own.
Lisa Norton says
Pasivni Zaslužek says
I totally agree with you Jared, most people don’t even realize that google images are not owned by google and they should check the website where the picture is to even see if they can use it. Oh, I just wanted to add another source for images and that is: flickr.com
Jared Williams says
Hi Pasivni, Thanks for your comment!
Yes, most people do not realize that Google is just displaying these images…they do not actually own them. And thanks for another source. Flickr is great, and I have used them in the past. Just have to make sure that you search under Creative Commons – http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/
Glenn Specht says
Great Blog Post!
I wanted to mention another place to purchase image licenses that you likely never hear about….it is directly from the creator through the new and growing Symbiostock Network.
This network allows you access to a network of 25,000+ images that are inexpensive, and Royalty Free, and the best thing is, the fee goes directly to the creator.
If you are a photographer or need to buy an image you should check out the Symbiostock network.
My blog post explaining what I am talking about
Jared Williams says
Thanks for the tip on Symbiostock! Pretty cool how it allows creators to sell their images.
Thanks a lot for the information! It was just what I needed!
Have a good day.