Can I use Google Images in my digital products?
Have you ever thought about using Google Images on your blog, in your printables or as part of your digital products? Google Images has millions of amazing images, and it can be tempting to use them in your digital products (especially as it’s FREE!). However, this is a HUGE legal risk as images on Google Images are often protected by copyright.
So – can you use Google Images in your commercial projects?
To put it simply, no – you can’t.
You should always assume that any image you find on Google Images is protected by copyright.
If an image is protected by copyright, it means you CANNOT legally use it in your digital products.
There are horror stories all over the web about individuals or businesses who have been presented with cease and desist letters and even sued for using copyrighted images without permission.
Here’s an example – go ahead and read it if you want a real scare about the realities of copyright infringement.
And to those who think “oh, it’s okay, I’ll never get caught” – think again.
I’ve often heard people try and justify their use of copyrighted graphics on the basis that the copyright holder would never find their blog, website or products as they are ‘only small’ and the copyright holder can’t spend their entire lives trawling through the internet hoping to find their images being used illegally so that they can call the lawyers in.
Well… yeah, I guess you’re right, nobody has time for that.
BUT what content creators DO have time for is to use computer programs to do the searching for them.
There are computer programs available that scour the internet 24-7 looking for copyrighted images.
You might be able to hide from an individual artist, but you probably can’t hide from these clever programs.
It doesn’t matter how ‘small’ you might think your business is – if it’s online, it can be found.
Getting permission to use a Google Image
It *may* be possible for you to use an image found in Google Image Search IF you can track down the original copyright holder and get their permission.
However, due to the nature of the internet, it can be incredibly difficult to 1) find out who created the image originally and 2) find their contact information.
You may spend hours tracking down the original artist only to be told that they will not allow you to use the image (which is completely within their rights to do so), or that they require a large royalty payment for you to use the image.
Personally, I believe it’s a bit of waste of trying to get permission a specific Google Image. You can never be 100% sure that the person you get in contact with really is the original copyright holder, or if they just tell you they are.
If you believe the wrong person and start using an image, you’re opening yourself up to a whole lot of trouble if the original copyright holder finds your products and pursues you for damages.
Luckily, there are some websites available that provide completely free and copyright-friendly images.
Where to find copyright-friendly graphics for your printables
If you’re just starting out in your digital products journey, the idea of spending money on graphics before you start making sales of your own can be a bit daunting.
Luckily, there are several resources available that offer photographs and graphics that are totally free and you can use them in your products.
IMPORTANT! Both of the below websites allow anyone to create an account and upload photos. There is no 100% guarantee that the images on these sites are royalty-free and safe to use on your blog and in your digital products.
Unsplash is a collection of photographs that have been shared by the original photographers. There are over 300,000 photos to choose from.
“All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.
More precisely, Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash. This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.” [Checked March 2019]
Pixabay is similar to Unsplash but it boasts a larger collection of images. Rather than just photographs, Pixabay also contains vector designs and even videos. At the time of writing, there are over 1.2 million images and videos available on the site.
“Images and Videos on Pixabay are made available under the Pixabay License on the following terms. Under the Pixabay License you are granted an irrevocable, worldwide, non-exclusive and royalty free right to use, download, copy, modify or adapt the Images and Videos for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Attribution of the photographer or Pixabay is not required but is always appreciated. ” [Checked March 2019]
The safest way to find royalty-free graphics & stock photography
If you want to make yourself as copyright-secure as possible, the best way to do that is to purchase all graphics that you use, or to utilise free graphics that you know are given out by the original graphics/photo creators.
Here are some of my favourite graphics resources to use:
- My FREE stock photo library of 70+ free stock photos – yay!
- The Hungry Jpeg (graphics, fonts & photos)
- Deposit Photos (photos & illustrations)
- Ivory Mix (stock photos)
- Envato Elements (monthly subscription to over 1million resources)
Disclaimer: I am neither a lawyer nor a copyright specialist. Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice. It is up to you to ensure any graphics that you use, whether personally or commercially, are fully compliant with copyright laws. If in doubt, consult a copyright lawyer or solicitor. Neither I nor my company hold any responsibility for (and are not liable for) any copyright issues that you may encounter.
If you believe any of the information in this article to be incorrect, outdated or misleading, please get in touch with your concerns.