No, You Can’t Use That Image from Your Google Search

It feels like every day someone tells me they just grabbed an image off of Google. 

And I say, “You know you can’t do that, right?”

They sometimes look sheepish, but often, they say, “Why not?”

Copyrights. That’s why.

A copyright is a collection of rights automatically awarded to someone who creates an original work- like a painting, book, song, movie, picture, or software. 

The rights include the right to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works, distribute copies and perform and display the work publicly. The first copyright law stated: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” (United States Constitution, 1787).

You can’t just do a Google image search and download whatever you like best. 

There are multiple penalties for breaking copyright laws. According to Purdue University, some of these include paying the dollar amount for damages and profits, paying for all attorney and court fees, paying between $200 and $150,000 for every stolen piece, and even going to jail.

So how do you get images?

There are tons of sites online that allow you to use their images. Istock is a popular option; however you do have to pay for the images. 

Looking for free images? Check out two of our favorites:

Now, you can use Google to search for free images too. You just need to refine your search a little bit. 

Click on the Search Tools and then selecting “Labeled for Reuse or Labeled for Reuse with Modification.” Check out the example below:

Keep in mind that ideas are property, and while it isn’t physical property, you want to have people respect your rights, you should respect theirs too.

If that isn’t a good enough reason, think of how respecting copyrights honor innovation and creativity. By acknowledging the copyright, you are admiring their ability to create new ideas and representations. 

So, when you need a new image for a flyer or a blog post or even for social media, think twice before you take something off of Google.