It’s a common misconception that images online aren’t copyrighted. They are.
ALL images online legally belong to the person who created it.
Whether you can see a copyright symbol or not (it’s not a requirement!), if you re-use an image you find floating about online you could be committing copyright infringement – which could ultimately lead to someone taking legal action against you. It’s just not worth the headache.
Happily though, there are a few simple guidelines you can follow to cover your back, and make sure that you’re keeping things legal on your website and social media:
Stay away from Google images
Google images are great for inspiration, or searching for your personal use, but if you’re looking for images to use commercially (for your business), it’s best to stay away.
You can use the filters under tools to sort images by their usage rights, but don’t take Google at their word on this. When I’ve delved deeper into the image sources, I’ve often found that an image which Google has labelled as ok for re-use actually isn’t. So if you do use Google images, make sure you find the image source and double check it is actually covered by the correct license.
Look for CC0 licenses
A CC0 license means that an image (or other creative content) has been made available for re-use for free – but you do sometimes have to add an attribution. Always check the license requirements on each site you visit!
Get free images from licensed sources
There are so many places online where you can download and use images commercially for free nowadays. Sometimes you’re required to use an attribution, so always check the license details on the website. Here’s just a handful, but there’s lots more out there:
You can also search https://www.flickr.com/ and filter by Usage Rights.
If you find an image on someone else’s website which you love and would like to use, try dropping them an email and asking if you can use it! I’ve known people to say yes to this, so it’s worth a try. Make sure you get permission in writing though, to protect yourself from potential legal disputes.
Use your own images
The excellent flip side of all of this is that if YOU put any of your own images online, they are automatically protected by Copyright laws. Take your own photos or get a brand shoot done, and not only will you be legal, but your online presence will be thoroughly infused with your own unique brand essence.