Did you know that the ‘free’ image your just found on Google could actually end up costing you thousands of dollars? It is so easy to hunt for images through Google; simply put in a search term in, and hundreds of images appear before your eyes. But, be warned, those Google images are not free for the taking. By using them, you are opening yourself up to lawsuits, fines, and penalties for your business.

The Ethics

How would you feel if someone used your intellectual property without paying you, or even giving you the recognition you deserve? That is effectively what you are doing when you take an image from Google to use in your marketing, in a blog post, on your social medial profiles or on your website. You are essentially stealing their work; and nobody likes a thief!

It is important to remember that Google is a search engine, it is simply locating information from all over the internet, based on your search term. It is not a content library of free-to-use images. When the search results produce the perfect image, trace it back to its source, and whether it is available for use or not, do not simply copy and paste it from Google. I cannot stress this enough, do not use images obtained from Google searches, in any way, shape or form.

Drawing You In To Google Images

There are people out there who have made a career out of people who try to get away with using Google images for free. They will put the most beautiful photo of a basic object on Google, and just wait for someone to use it in their marketing. Then, before you know it, you have been hit with a lawsuit and have to pay hefty fines anywhere between $3,000 and $150,000. There have been many cases of this happening, even for a simple image of an apple, for example.

Just because an image does not have a copyright symbol attached with it, does not mean it isn’t protected by copyright law. The innocent mistake of using an image from a search engine could see you receive communication from an attorney of image copyright infringement – yes, such a lawyer does exist! And it seems that even if you take the image down immediately, you are still liable to pay a fine. And the fines are at an level that could put a small business under.

4 Tips for Where to Source Images

To avoid the danger, and to create fantastic content, here are 3 steps you can take to have safe images:

  1. Create your own images, it is so easy these days with smart phones and cameras easily accessible – create your own unique photos of your business and products. These are your intellectual property, and you can guarantee nobody has the same one
  2. Pay a photographer to come into your business and take photos, not only will it be worth the money because of the amazing quality and images, you will have images that are in line with your branding and your materials will look fantastic, this is an investment I encourage all businesses to make. Engaging with a photographer means you will have the rights to the images as agreed with the photographer, make sure you know what’s included and they know the intended purpose for the images
    Some businesses I recommend for photography:
  1. Source your images from stock photo websites, remember to check licenses of images to ensure that you are allowed to use them commercially
    FREE Stock Photo Websites
    Paid Stock Photo Websites
  2. If you are using the image of a friend or colleague, then make sure you check with them first. Also, you should give credit where credit is due and include the source of the image if it is required or agreed.

Always remember that every image that comes up in a Google search belongs to someone else. Google Images is not a library for you to “borrow” from, it could be used as a reference point for where to find the images that you like, however I would recommend creating your own or paying a professional photographer, if not, then start in the correct channels and source the appropriate images with the correct licences. By not following the correct channels, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. What seems like an innocent image of a beach could actually be a lawsuit in disguise! Be image smart.

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