Google Images is not your private stock image collection nor are other websites. I will say that one more time, Google Images is not your private stock image collection nor are other websites.
In the past year I acquired two new clients because of copyright infringement. A most unfortunate way to get new client, I must say. Both my new clients left their old web designers because each business got hit with a copyright infringement fine due to images their web designers used for their web site. The first fine was a little over $2000, the second was for around $900.
But how? Well before either business became my client both had so called web designers build their websites. The one actually bought an image but didn’t read the licence. The image could only be used for their website but not for the information they were passing out to their clients so they could use the information on their sites. The other web designer used Google Images to find images for the website.
How do I know the one used Google Images? A little detective work! I described the image to Google Images. After several keyword tries, there, not too far down in the results was the exact image from a major stock image site. Then further down was the exact same image on another site that had bought the rights to use the image legally (so I assume). The image was cropped the same as what was on my client’s website.
A little more research and I found out that this stock image company and several other stock image companies that have a lot of images, all copyrighted images, are on the offensive. They have hired a company to use software to search websites looking for their copyrighted images. They fine anyone who can’t prove they paid for a licence. Which the first client could but the licence wasn’t the extended license. So they got hit with a higher fine for breaking the licence. The second client couldn’t prove they had a licence.
Because of their old web designer’s lazy incompetence both of these businesses had to pay an unnecessary fine. Fines that could have been avoided for as little as $7. That $7 would have bought or upgraded a licence.
This sort of copyright infringement is very common and easy. You can go to Google Images, type in any keyword and bam, hundreds of images that pertain to that keyword. A simple copy and paste and its up on your site. But like my two clients and many others have learned doing this sort of thing can result in fines. Costly unnecessary fines.
This can all be avoided by either buying stock images from a stock image site like istockphoto.com or jupiterimages.com. Or you can pay a local photographer to come shoot custom photos. Or you can do like I do, I have a list of royalty free stock image sites I use.
Here are a few sites:
I make sure I read the licence information before using the image. Most images are free to use however I want. Some I have to credit the photographer. Other I just have to ask permission. It all depends on the licence. But taking 5 minutes to read the licence is far cheaper than a $900 or $2000 fine.
So the next time you hire a web or graphic designer and they use stock images, take a moment to have them prove where they got the images from and read the licence. Any reputable designer will use images legally or pay to use the images.