The Danger Of Using Google Images

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Understanding Image Copyright Laws

Just because you found an image on Google does not mean you have free reign to use it.

While Copyright laws have become a little “grey” since the rapid rise of the www + social media, there are still some basic fundamentals you need to understand to avoid being caught out with a copyright infringement. 

Here’s what you need to know to ensure you protect yourself and your business from breaching someone else’s copyright.

What Is Copyright?

According to WRP Legal, “Copyright is the automatic right to something original that has been created.  For example, as soon as you take a photograph, you hold a copyright in that image, and the sole and exclusive rights to publish, and enjoy the commercial benefits of, that image. Dealing with someone else’s photograph, such as uploading it to your website, that you have not created or taken yourself (or do not have the consent of the photographer to use) will likely constitute a breach of copyright.”

Copyright essentially acts to protect someone’s intellectual (and creative) property including photos, graphics, images and diagrams in addition to other media including video, audio and the written word. Unless you are referencing someone else’s work in a research/study capacity, criticism/review, parody/satire or you are reporting the news, you need permission to use someone else’s digital assets. If you’re a local business (or even a not-for-profit), definitely check out WRP Legal’s article ‘Images that infringe copyright on websites’ regarding copyright exceptions. At the end of the day, it’s best to avoid using someone else’s images altogether. 

Don’t Copy Your Competition

Creating a unique brand image is supposed to help you stand out from the crowd, not make you blend in with everyone else claiming to do what you do.

If you find yourself harvesting photos from a Google images search, not only could you be up for a Copyright infringement case, but you’re also at risk of using the exact same images that your competitors are using. In fact, you could inadvertently download and use an image or photo that they have commissioned through a photographer or you’ve copied an image that they don’t have permission to use. Both constitute a breach of copyright on your part, PLUS why copy someone else when you’ll get so much more value honouring your uniqueness and intentionally standing out from the crowd?

CASE STUDY: Long-term clients of ours, Gecko Vending are leaders in their field and a business that competitors desire to emulate. Once our client gained permission to leverage the images of close to 500 different products they carry, we spent hours creating custom collage images that make the Gecko Vending website truly unique. Over the years, several competitors have blatantly copied and used these custom images that our client paid us to create. We’ve since hidden a faded watermark of the Gecko Vending logo into these images to make it easy for us and our client to identify them if / when they are “borrowed” by a competitor, allowing our client to approach them requesting the images be removed.

How To Legally Obtain Images For Your Website

There are two main ways we obtain photos for our client’s websites allowing us to contribute to their online brand image in a positive way while also ensuring that we’re not infringing on anyone’s copyright.

  1. Arrange Your Own Photos | While you can take your own photos, you really do need to know what you’re doing to ensure you’re capturing good quality images that accurately reflect the kind of business you want to put out into the world. We recommend downloading our Free WEBSITE MEDIA GUIDE, which includes an entire section on capturing the right shot as well as the different image formats and layouts that most web designers prefer.

    Alternatively (and ideally, in our professional opinion) you could seek the services of a professional photographer. This means that your photos will be on-brand and exclusive to you. Not only will this help you stand out, it also means that your competitors cannot also use these images without blatantly breaching your Copyright.

    TIP: To find the right photographer, ask around and get at least 3 quotes for a photo package that includes fully edited images that you can use on your website, social media and other advertising, without limitation. Check their other commercial/brand work to ensure the quality and ‘vibe’ of your photos are going to match/complement that of you and your business.

  2. Source Professional Stock Images | While you can source these from copyright-free websites like Pixabay, Flickr Creative Commons and Creative Commons Search, it can be difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. You also need to attribute every photo (which doesn’t always look nice on a business website) plus ensure that any Creative Commons licenses cover commercial use. Sometimes free usage is limited to just private use.

    As a web design agency, we prefer the protection and quality of paying for professional stock images. While each image isn’t exclusively yours, it’s less likely that your competitors are using the same images and the quality is often significantly better than what most local businesses capture on their own.

    We’ve recently switched to, however we’ve also sourced images from Adobe Stock, Dreamstime and istock to purchase low-cost royalty-free images.


Other Copyright Resources

Australian Government | Basic Copyright information  
Australian Copyright Council | A collection of fact sheets specifically about websites and copyright

The Final Cut On Copyright

In short, avoid using someone else’s photos and images unless you have written permission or have paid for the right to use them. Taking your own photos, hiring a professional photographer or purchasing copyright-free images from a credible stock image website are the easiest strategies to avoid breaching copyright. 

For more information about our all-inclusive Web design packages, inclusive of stock photography, request a call back via the online form below. We believe in creating unique-looking websites that contribute to your overall brand image and can walk you through every step of the process.

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