Considering taking a photo from Google Images to promote your business? DON'T!

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Here's the scenario. You are looking for ways to enhance your website or facebook page. You think, " I need some great images to capture my viewer's attention. I'll do a Google Image Search. Surely, I can find some great, free images there!" In a word DON'T!

While the ability to find great images through Google is tempting, there are a few things you may want to think about prior to doing this. 

The images you find in your Google Image search may seem like they are free because they are on Google for all the world to see, most of the time this is not true. You may think that because the photo is not watermarked, it's free for the taking. Again, also not true. 

The best thing you can do when it comes to images taken from Google or any other search engine for that matter is to assume that they are copyrighted and protected by law. This means that if you use them without permission, you can face legal repercussions. 

You may say, "Sure, this may be true, but with all the images out there, how in the world would a photographer ever know if I used their photo?"  My answer to that is simple. If the photographer is a small town photographer, the probability is small that you'll be found out. But, this is the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette. You may not get caught this time, but next time may be the time you are found out. 

Let's say you go on using photos for a few years and have taken maybe 100 photos off of the internet without permission. Let's also say on photo 101, you get caught. The possibility of being found out about the previous 100 photos are now much greater. This would mean the possibility of many, many legal battles. Not something a small to medium business could weather very well. 


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So... when should you be concerned about copyright infringement on your website or social media channels?

Many people wrongly assume if they do certain things when grabbing a photo that is not theirs, this will protect them from legal liability. Here are a few misconceptions that will not protect you. (As I am not a lawyer, please realize this may not be an all encompassing list)

I altered the original photo in photoshop.

Technically it's mine now because I added my artistic vision to it. (If the original photographer can prove that their photo was the starting point of the photo, you can be liable)

I linked the photo back to the original source.

While this seems like a good idea, you have no idea if the original poster had permission to use it. Even if they did, that permission doesn't transfer to you.

I only use the images on Social Media.

People think that because it is used on social media, it's use is fine. The original photographer may not want their photo connected with you. Copyright protection is still in force.

Placing a disclaimer on your site that all rights belong to the original creator. 

Again, just because you do this, it doesn't protect you from legal action. The image is not for your use without permission. 

Once I received a take down notice, I took the image down.

Taking an image down after the fact does not necessarily absolve you of legal responsibility.


Great... I've been grabbing images off of the internet for a while now. What do I do?

First, I would suggest that you go to your website and your social media channels and go through all your photos and remove any that you have used in this manner. 

Second, here are a few ways to replace the images with legal ones. 

Take your own.

This is probably the easiest short term fix. You probably have a ton of images on your phone, use these to your advantage. (The only caveat is that if you are taking photos of people in a non-public setting, you will most likely need a model release.)

Hire a Professional Photographer. 

While this may cost a little more, the advantage is that you'll get professional quality images. This will ensure you will have images unique to your business. that will also fit in with your branding and advertising standards.

Use Creative Commons Licensed Images

Creative Commons Licensed Images are in the public domain, and can be used without requesting permission, even for commercial use. Basically, the original artist has given permission to anyone who would like to use it ahead of time. 


In the end, the thing to remember is this: The image that seems to be free right now, may cost you a lot of money in the future! 

If you'd like to set up a free consultation to discuss having professional photography done for your business, please feel free to contact me here.