Photo credit:

I sometimes just Google an image and use it on my blog, but I’ve heard that is this a copyright law violation. Is it and what should I do?
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Any image, by default, is the copyrighted property of the photographer (or anyone who bought the image from the photographer).

Technically, you should have permission to use any image you find on a search engine image search. That permission can be:

  • Explicit permission that you write and ask the owner for, or the site has specific instructions on using an image and how to properly credit it.
  • Implied permission because of the nature of the content or because there are general statements on the site stating it’s okay to use the content.

On a practical level, if you properly credit an image (in the absence of a prohibition of use  from that source), you are typically okay with using an image unless you are using it in a marketing or income producing effort in which case you should ALWAYS seek explicit permission or purchase royalty free images.  Again, if you are using an image as part of a visual that produces income (a product, ad or marketing campaign) you better be VERY diligent in getting permission or you may find all your profits going to the owner of that image.

Most photographers love to have their images used liberally but the whole point is for the exposure. If you don’t credit them and link to them, it does not benefit them. Professional photographers will most likely be selling the use of their images in some manner, so you should be particularly diligent when using considering those.

From my experience, I can tell you that 99% of the time, people don’t care if you use their photos; most of them will want you to credit and link to them, others will want payment.  A few won’t care what you do with them but don’t assume that.

In all cases, unless there is clear permission to use the image, or you have purchased the image, you should seek to get permission. Err on the side of caution and you won’t find yourself being called a thief.

If there is clear permission, make sure you conform to their instructions on how to credit the image.

Note: Google does not own those images nor can they grant permission to use what you find in a Google image search. You have to go to the source.

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