I have worked as a web developer since 2004 and in that time I have come across the same story many times. Just this week 2 clients have tried to land themselves in the same trap and it continues. And it’s an expensive mistake when you are caught out, potentially landing you with a court summons and a bill for thousands of pounds or dollars.
Many people then resort to Google Images. A quick look for their keyword in Google Images usually turns up dozens of images. Open one and it is easily saved. Bingo, job done these people think.
What exactly is wrong with Google Images for website images?
But stop there. Where did those images come from originally? If that site took the image themselves then they own the copyright for the image. However, if that site, designer or owner paid for the image from a stock photo library then it is likely that someone else owns the copyright and that stock photo library will be on the case, making sure that all uses of their images are licensed.
You can’t get around it. Simply resizing the image, adding a colour fade, merging it in with another image or whatever doesn’t make it your original copyright. If you use an image that someone else has produced it is their copyright. It is then up to them if they allow you to use the image for free.
The safest option is the honest option
The safest way to get around it is to always use stock libraries. There are loads about and with these they keep a record of what you have downloaded and if there’s a problem with the images in the future (for example someone has uploaded copyrighted content) then they deal with it for you.
However, this can be extremely expensive. Some paid stock libraries start off from a couple of dollars per download whilst some can start off at $50. If you need a lot of images, maybe on a daily basis, then this becomes prohibitive.
There are also the free options
There are a lot of free stock libraries out there too. These can be great to use but you must be careful on how you use them. Some are free only to certain types of uses or sites. e.g. if you are a hobby blogger the images are free, but if you are a commercial blogger then they are not.
Also, there’s the issue of ‘attribution’. Here you have to link back to the library in return for the free access to the image. Again it varies from library to library and usage to usage.
Royalty free Verses Free
You have to be very careful searching for ‘free’ images. For example, I’ve just tried ‘free stock photos’ and the 4th result is iStockPhoto – which is a paid directory. What they are offering is not free images but royalty free images. You pay to download them but then don’t have to pay every time that you use them.
It’s a small but subtle difference in the phrase that can mean the difference between a genuinely free image and a costly mistake. And “I didn’t realise” is not a defence. This is something that you are expected to know in the eyes of the libraries. Use their images by mistake and you are in trouble. And I know of people who have received these costly letters.
Finding free libraries
But these free libraries can be very useful, especially to new bloggers. How do you find them? There are directories and lists out there, but there is also a book available by Lysa Wylds (link to her website, not the book) which is called The Ultimate Guide To Free Stock Photos (affiliate link). If you are stuck looking for photos then this 58 page should have some ideas of libraries to look in!
Don’t risk it, just don’t risk it!
But don’t risk downloading images from Google Images. Someone somewhere owns the copyright and if, or probably when, they catch up with you there will be a nasty letter arriving addressed to you with a demand for a lot of cash. It’s not worth the risk.
For the record!
Images on this page sourced from iStockPhoto.com & freevector.com