Google Images: Free Game or Copyright Infringement?

Would you lift a shirt from your favourite clothing shop because you’re planning on giving credit to the store for having it in stock? Lifting a copyright image from Google images is an indiscretion of the same kind … even if you add, “Picture credit: Google Images.” First of all, Google does not actually own the image; it merely serves as a portal to display images. Second, the image may well be copyrighted, the property of an artist or photographer who makes their living off the image.

Ugg & Lee (by Craig Kirkby), Image InfringementOf course, an online article is far more readable with the insertion of a few choice images that break up the block content. And we’ve all seen blogs stuffed willy-nilly with Google images (with or without tagline attribution given). And yes, we’ve all learnt bad habits through sharing images via social media, which thrives on the practice. However, for a cold-shower-in-winter wake-up call, google “Google images copyright infringement penalties” for horror tale after horror tale told by those tracked down by infuriated artists (and rightly so) demanding compensation for copyright infringement. While respecting the rights of photographers and artists should be sufficient motivation, the severity of the penalties dished out—anywhere between $1000 and $8000—adds plenty of additional incentive.

The bottom line? Check carefully the license agreement or “terms of use” on any image you want to use—whether you get it from Google images or another source—and if there is any doubt or ambiguity: don’t use it!

Alternatives to Google Images: Avoiding Copyright Infringement

There are many free images available under Creative Commons or the Public Domain, and of course, you could purchase images through Stock Photography at reasonable prices. Why not grab your camera or crank up your creativity and use your own images? This avoids the copyright infringement issue entirely.

Besides using my own images, I also source from Pixabay, Pexels, Stocksnap and WP Clipart. Pixabay now offers a helpful WordPress plugin, but again, it pays to be careful. Check the “terms of use” on any image you use.

You want to see: CC0 Public Domain License. The phrase, “Free for commercial use / No attribution required,” along with the license, is even better. And even when not required, giving credit to the source is a good practice to maintain.

Disclaimer: I am not in a position to offer legal advice on copyright violation. I only hope that this article serves to draw your attention to the issue.

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