Ever need a photo for your blog, website, advertisement, or social media?
Of course you have, and it’s rather likely that you quickly grabbed a photo off Google images as a quick solution. But let this be your warning: you can’t just take images off of Google — unless you want the copyright trolls to come after you.
What are copyright trolls?
We’re not joking in the form of some silly term that sounds made it up. Copyright trolls are, in fact, an increasingly prominent hassle in the world of copyrighted images.
Simply put: copyright trolls exploit unassuming people and companies who are using their images. And while yes, using a copyrighted image (that’s not yours) is illegal, copyright trolls are frowned upon for their aggressive practices to litigate what’s often innocuous use of their work.
How do I know if something is copyrighted?
Here are some big red flags:
- Copyright symbols and watermarks
If a photo has a copyright symbol or a watermark on it, you should stay far, far away from using it.
- Clear indication of ownership
Some pictures may not have a copyright symbol or watermark emblazoning them, but they note the copyright holder via a caption, comment, or otherwise.
- Any photo that’s not yours.
It’s as simple as that.
What is attribution?
Attribution occurs when you use a picture while acknowledging the photo’s rightful owner. Creative Commons, for example, has specific rules on how to attribute a photo found on their platform. However, depending on the picture you’re using — and who the original owner is — sometimes simply mentioning the photographer and linking to their portfolio is all that’s required. It’s a case-by-case basis, and one that requires due diligence before using a photo that’s not yours.
Are any photos on Google free to use?
Yes, but beware! Google says right in their documentation that even when using their advanced search for usage rights “Before reusing content, make sure that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse. Google can’t tell if the license label is legitimate, so we don’t know if the content is lawfully licensed.” (Source: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/29508?hl=en)
What are alternative options?
If you want to avoid the stress of photo attribution, it’s best to use the following websites:
The websites above allow users to download photos for free and use them for commercial use without attribution. If you’re looking for pictures to use for your business and/or blog, this is the route to take. There are also sites with very low cost pictures with great selections.
Moral of the story?
It may seem obvious, but when you’re busy with the hustle and bustle of running a business, it can be easy to just grab a pic and go. Don’t take the easy way out though; you may end up regretting it big time.
Now more than ever, it’s safest to abide by the rule to never take an image simply found on Google Images. With services offering free and cheap photos without copyright, there’s no reason to take that risk.