Images are a great way to catch eyes on your website, newsletter, social media, and even advertisements. You may be asking yourself, are Google images free to use? The answer is usually no.

Google Images are not free


Google search works by scavenging the web for content that matches what you searched. This is the case for the standard search results and Google images. All the images shown on Google Images are from other websites around the web (you can actually visit the page that Google pulled the image from by clicking on it). The majority of the time, these images are owned or licensed by the person/company who originally uploaded them. If you save the picture from Google and use it on your own site, you are probably infringing on the owner’s copyrighted material. This is a serious offense that could cost you or your business a lot of money. Contrary to popular belief, an image does not need to contain a watermark in order to be copyrighted.

Don’t Use Google Images

Many people have found themselves in real legal trouble, all because they saved pictures directly from Google and used them on their sites and/or marketing campaigns. Often times these people are caught by the owners of the images themselves, who will occasionally do a reverse search of their work to see if it is being used anywhere else. One case of this is with marketer Dan Dasilva. He used a copyrighted image on a client’s site without permission. In turn, the photographer who took the image sued Dasilva and received a $27,000 settlement.

Stock image sites like Getty and Shutterstock are also known to come collect for their images being used without license. It’s no joke, we’ve seen a business first hand that used a “random Google image” on their website. The business received a settlement notice from Getty images. Getty documented a timeline of where and when their image was being displayed on the website in their notice (meta information makes this possible). The bill was not for the $10 the image would have cost, but rather for upwards of $4,000. Therefore, the business had to pay the settlement or be sued for copyright infringement for thousands more.

Truly Free Images

Finding free images online is not impossible. In fact, it is pretty easy. Just by Googling “free images”, you can find links to dozens of sites that provide royalty free pictures. However, some of these pictures may still be copyrighted to an extent. Images can be licensed with Creative Commons; a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people share their work. The general rule to remember for all work licensed under Creative Commons is, you need to give credit to the creator. Each license has different conditions, but that rule is universal. If you come across a picture that is licensed, be sure to understand what that license means so you don’t break any copyright laws. You can find all the different licenses on the Creative Commons website.

If you are looking for completely free images, you need to find pictures that are in the public domain. Thankfully, websites like Pexels provide completely free images that you can use for your business without having to worry.

So Google Images Aren’t Free?

The true answer to the question, are Google images free is, sometimes. However, you can never pull images straight from Google and be safe. If you see an image on Google that you like, try clicking through to the site to find the origin. It is important to follow copyright laws and purchase the images you want to use. There are affordable stock images from Dreamstime and Shutterstock to help you find the perfect image at an affordable price, or use one of the many free image resources that are available.

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