Copyright? Royalty free? Public domain? Why can’t I just go on Google images and use any photo?

I’ve decided to look at the issues we can face when just using any image we happen to find on Google images for our blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram or on our websites. This has been brought to my attention by a friend who has had this problem recently and been fined. You could also find yourself with a fine if you don’t know about the rules surrounding use of images you might find on Google, for example.

When I first started blogging, I thought I could just log into Google images and use anything that came up…anything that caught my eye. Luckily I learned before I published my first blog that this isn’t the case and you can get into serious trouble if you just use anything. And there are some great sites out there where you can get free images without the worry of being fined….and they have fab images.

Copyright

copyright-850371_640Have a go yourself, just log into Google and type in ‘Images of cats’ for example…then click on one of the images. Yes, you can copy and paste the image…it doesn’t stop you from doing so, but it is illegal. If you look at the image you have clicked on, there is a caption under it saying, “Images may be subject to copyright.” It is up to you to check before you use anyone’s photo. However I found this was a bit of a hassle, because it can take a lot of research, going to page to page, until you find the information you are after.

The Wikipedia definition of ‘copyright’ is this:

“Copyright is a law that gives the owner of a work (like a book, movie, picture, song or website) the right to say how other people can use it. Copyright laws make it easier for authors to make money by selling their works. … If someone copies a work without permission, the owner can say they infringed their copyright.”

The Simple English Wikipedia goes into a bit more detail…

“With copyright, a work can only be copied if the owner gives permission. If someone copies a work without permission, the owner can say they infringed their copyright. When this happens, the owner may sue for the amount that should have been paid. Most cases are handled by civil law. In more serious cases, a person who copies a work that is protected under copyright could be arrested, fined, or even go to prison.”

Royalty-Free Images

Another thing you may see is that an image you want to use is ‘Royalty-free’, so does this mean it’s OK to use this one then? Actually no! The term, ‘Royalty Free’ is a type of license used by stock photography agencies to sell stock images. It’s usually just a one-off fee and you can use photos under a certain set of restrictions.

Again, Wikipedia gives the definition:

“RoyaltyFree Images. … The “free” in royaltyfree does not mean there is no cost for the license, but instead refers to being able to freely use the image without paying additional royalties. A small-business owner, for example, may opt to pay a one-time fee for RF images for his website.”

Public Domain Images

free-2751473_640These are the kind of images I now use on my blog and for some of my website images.

Good old Wikipedia describes these kind of images as:

“A public domain image is defined as a photo, clip art or vector whose copyright has expired or never existed in the first place. These images can be used by almost anyone for personal and commercial purposes.”

There are lots of public domain images sites on the internet. I use www.pixabay.com  a lot, as there is a good range of photos and cartoon images that I like. I also use www.unsplash.com too, which is similar.

When you go into these sites, you can search for any subject matter in the search line. When you click into the image, there is a ‘free download’ button to press. And underneath this button is the Pixabay License details. It usually says ‘Free for commercial use’ and ‘No attribution required’. I always check that this is written about the image I want to use, then I can just go ahead and download and use.

Other sites to consider are:

  • 1 Million Free Pictures – there are no copyright or other issues with this company as they make their own images and put them on their site and offer them free of charge to the public. Great if you want to get your logo up and running and can’t find an appropriate image.
  • The British Library is another site that has no copyright issues. According to the site, there are over a million images available for personal or commercial use – free of charge.
  • Public Domain Archive is a site managed by a professional photographer. There are thousands of images, both contemporary and vintage, on a range of topics, such as sport, animals, architecture etc. Photos are free to use for personal or commercial use and new photos are downloaded every week.
  • Negative Space is a great site for free high-resolution images, so perfect for using on your website or blog.

These are just a few of the sites available, and ones that I am familiar with, but there are loads more out there to choose from.

If you have a favourite site you use, please share with me so my readers can take advantage of the site.

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