Can You Legally Use Photos From Google For Your Website?
Published August 24, 2020
If you’re looking to make your mark on the web, it’s but natural to want to have the best-looking website. To do this, you obviously need to use the best photos.
For some people, getting the best images might seem simple. Just go to Google, search whatever image you like, download the image, upload it on your site, and voila! Problem solved. Your website has never looked better.
But is it really that simple? Can you take photos off Google for your website?
Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. Using photos from Google for your website might be more trouble than it’s worth. We’re talking about astronomically hefty fines, jail time, or both. That’s because most photos you’ll see on Google’s search results are from different sites across the web. As such, they’re almost always subject to copyrights.
What is Copyright?
As put by Copyright Alliance, copyright is:
a collection of rights that automatically vest to someone who creates an original work of authorship – like a literary work, song, movie, or software. These rights include the right to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and display the work publicly.
In short, the original owner of the photos have the ultimate say on who will use the photos or where and when it can be used. If you do not have permission from the owner to use the photos, they can sue you. And a lawsuit the last thing you want.
How to Tell If an Image is Copyrighted
As mentioned, most images on Google’s search results are copyrighted. But then, there are also sights that allow people to use their photos as long as you give them credits. To tell them apart, you’ll have to look at the image’s license.
Images that are free to use or use with attribution and restrictions are usually under the Creative Commons License. It’s also possible to use even copyrighted images as long as it falls within the Fair Use policy.
How to Use Images Legally
Even if you’re not allowed to just take photos from Google, there are still ways to get stunning photos for your website without breaking the law. Here are some ways to get copyright-free images:
1. Make Your Own
You don’t have to be a professional photographer or an award-winning graphic designer to create great images for your site. There are now a lot of photo editing tools both online and offline that produce decent results. All it takes is a healthy amount of creativity and determination.
If you’re planning to use screenshots, know that some forms of screenshots are also covered by copyright laws. They generally vary from website to website. Google, for example, has a guideline on what screenshots of their search results you’re allowed to use on another website. But in general, posting unaltered screenshots that do not damage a product or another site’s reputation is considered fair use.
2. Buy Stock Images
If you don’t feel like capturing or making your own images, you can always buy one. Stock photo trading websites are all over the internet. Just search a keyword on Google and you’ll see hundreds of stock photos pop up.
Unlike other options on this list, buying stock photos will (obviously) cost you money. But it will also give you more flexibility. Stock photo sites usually have thousands of photos in their gallery you can choose from. And most of the time, they’re better than free images.
3. Use Wikimedia Images
Wikimedia is a non-profit organization that owns and hosts sites like Wikipedia. And yes, they also offer images with Creative Commons License. Meaning, you can use them on your site as long as you put an attribution to the owner of the image.
Not all Wikimedia images are free to use though. So be sure to check the image license first before using a photo.
4. Use Royalty-Free Images
Sites like Pixabay, Unsplash, Pexels, and many others offer a huge collection of royalty-free images. Meaning, you can use images from these sites without having to buy them. These images also have virtually no license restrictions. You can crop, edit, or combine these images or use them in a video – your creativity is the limit.
5. Search Flickr’s Free Image Library
For those not familiar with Flickr, it’s a photo management and sharing site. But unlike stock photo websites, Flickr’s photo collection isn’t always professionally done. Remember, it’s a photo sharing site so anyone – from expert photographers to a bored kid taking photos of their backyard – can share a photo.
Also, not all photos on Flickr are free to use. The site has varying levels of license image owners can choose from. Be sure to check the licensing agreement of each photo before using it.
6. Ask Permission From The Owner
If there’s a photo that you really like but unfortunately is copyrighted, there’s no harm in asking permission from the owner. Some photographers are more than willing to lend their photos as long as you give them credits and if you ask nicely, of course.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to SEO and digital marketing. Every blog’s goal is to help inform and instruct the next generation of digital marketers.