I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Can we use this image I found on Google?”
Why? Because it’s probably copyrighted. Article I, Section 8, clause 8, of the United States Constitution states the purpose of copyright laws is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
Copyright is a federal law of the United States that protects original works of authorship. A work of authorship includes literary, written, dramatic, artistic, musical and certain other types of works.
When in doubt, assume that the image is copyrighted – for your safety, and out of respect of the creator.
Maybe you’ve heard of Fair Use Laws.
But, do not think that fair equals free.
The purpose of the Fair Use Doctrine is to allow for limited and reasonable uses as long as the use does not interfere with owners’ rights or impede their right to do with the work as they wish.
Basically, this means you can use an image from the owner’s site if you’re writing a review of a book, a new gadget, food, etc. but not actually altering the photo or claiming it as yours.
This Fair Use Doctrine is a legal exception to copyright for instances when the image will benefit the public – like when talking about an outfit, you probably should show said outfit.
Maybe you’re thinking you’ll just credit the creator.
Of course, you need to give credit if that is what the license requires, but you actually have to HAVE permission. Just telling people who took the photo will not protect you. No way, jose. And before you think about NOT linking back so you WON’T get caught – know that that’s even worse! Now you’re claiming it as your own and that will not go over well with the photographer.
Another important thing to note: copyright laws do not require the author to include a copyright notice.
Nowadays, many photographers embed their copyright information into the source code for the image, so no matter what little “tricks” you may have to get the image – the photographer will still be able to track your posting of their image.
If you still feel like being a rebel, and are thinking of illegally using copyrighted images, ask yourself if you’re prepared to have your site taken down. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides very powerful options for a copyright owner to protect his or her works in the digital space!
Where can you get some free, LEGAL images?
Here are a few to get you started:
- Stock Xchng
Flickr (double check usage restrictions!)
Getty Images (Need a good photo for your blog or social media channels? Getty Images just released 40 MILLION stock photos specifically for that purpose! Read more details on the specifics of embedding in this article.)
Unsplash (easily one of the most popular free photo sites)
Freely Photos (great for religious or holiday photos)
FoodiesFeed (in case you want some beautiful photos of food)
Don’t take a chance on stealing photos from Google. Unless, you just like throwing away thousands of dollars. There are TOO MANY good free stock photo websites out there!