Can I Use Images from Google Images?

This is an Internet old question. Should you just right click and download an image, use it in a project and never worry about it? Or maybe you shouldn't.

The shortest answer is: maybe.

The long and comprehensive answer is, however, more complex. So let's decipher it.

Let's say you're working on a newsletter for a travel company for the sake of a tangible example. This newsletter involves tropical vacations, cocktails, waterfront resorts, the whole tropical dream in one package. So, you're naturally gonna need some really cool photos to make it shine.

Enter Google Image Search. You type in tropical beach and a whole world of tropical paradise is open on your computer screen and the first thing that comes to mind is: I will download and use this image. Stop right there, though because you might infringe someone's copyright and maybe rob them of their hard work (and possibly means of making a living) by doing this.

Tropical Beach

How to make sure an image you download from Google Images is free of copyright?There is actually no simple answer to this and no way to be 100% sure from the get go. Google will serve you images from stock photos sites, free stock photos sites, wallpaper sites and, pretty much any well indexed site that contains images with the search terms you're looking for. To make sure you can use an image without paying for it or crediting it to its author you would actually need to trace it to the original and find out what license applies to it.The chances to run into trouble by using images downloaded straight from a Google Images search page are quite high and there are plenty of stories out there to prove the point.

Safest ways to use images in your projects and avoid headaches:

- commercial stock imagery - this type of images will always be your safe harbor. Commercial royalty free images are checked by an army of photo editors before they are sent online in image banks, which will ensure that you are using, in fact, an image that doesn't contain any type of copyright that can possibly become an issue and that is also properly model released with a legally signed document.

- creative commons and public domain - these images don't require any author credit, or any kind of payment, they are free and, in the case of vintage image, out of copyright, but can lead to issues such as copyrights in the image (e.g. that boat you decided to go with for the cover of your newsletter might be Richard Branson's and he might not appreciate his property being used in a newsletter). Also, that 'beautiful woman on the beach' you spotted for the resort presentation might not have signed a model release document that allows images of herself to be used commercially. She might not agree to her image appearing in your project and you can't know for sure if she gave her permission or not.So, while creative commons may certainly sound appealing, it isn't risk free and needs more caution.

In conclusion, right click and download should never become the preferred gesture of a serious designer, especially when great stock imagery can be purchased for so little money. Staying legally safe should be a priority and, also, respecting the work of fellow creators is always appreciated.

Now, off to the tropics.

Photo credits: Skutvik.

Your article must be written in English

March 12, 2018


Ssmith258, certainly not, it's still the work of the original author, post processing it doesn't make it your own.

March 09, 2018


Playing devil's advocate, what happens if you take an image and crop it or change the brightness/contrast levels, does this become a new image not covered by any copyright from the original image

February 24, 2018


A useful conclusion would be that Google should have the obligation to clearly state the copyright situation and provide a direct link to buy the right to publish

February 24, 2018


the spanish speaker must to speak in spanish for other ones can read the articles

February 17, 2018


GR8 article, pity about Romeojuly's reply.

February 11, 2018


No, I do not think that follows, the honesty of the project participants and the exclusivity of the works uploaded here should be in priority ...

February 07, 2018


"Should you just right click and download an image, use it in a project and never worry about it?" I guess "No" is the answer. Thanks for sharing.

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