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Are Google Images Really Free to Use?

An image showing colleagues laughing whilst one accesses a royalty free image site

Google Images is a great resource for finding free images to use on your website or blog. However, it is important to be aware of the copyright laws surrounding these images. Just because an image is available on Google Images does not mean that you are free to use it without permission from the copyright holder.

In this article, we'll discuss the following:

What are copyright laws?

An image showing a typewriter writing out copyright claim

To kick things of, let's take a closer look at copyright laws. Copyright law is a set of laws that protect creators and their works, such as books, songs, photographs, movies, and more. Under the law, no one can use or reproduce someone else's creation without the creator's permission. This applies to images found on Google Images as well.

If you in the UK, copyright law is laid out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 as modified by subsequent legislation.

In the US, copyright law is found in Title 17 of the United States Code.

How do Google Images work?

Google Images is an online search engine that crawls the web for images. When you search for something on Google Images, it presents a selection of photos related to your query.

Navigating your way around Google Images can be a bit confusing but if you see below every image that Google presents there is licensing information. If you look at the license details, you can quickly tell what type of rights are attached to this image and if it requires attribution or not.

Despite the warning Google gives you to not infringe on copyright laws, users still do it and find themselves in legal trouble. You will need to do your own homework to make sure that a photo you found on Google Images is free to use.

Are Google Images really free to use without consequences?

No, not all images on Google Images are free to use without consequences. The licensing information is clearly visible just below the image and this will tell you what type of rights are attached to the image. If it says “All Rights Reserved”, then that means the copyright holder has chosen to reserve all their rights and any use of the image requires permission from the copyright holder.

In addition to this, you should always make sure that the photo is actually free to use by visiting the original source of the image and checking for any licensing information there. Some images have a Creative Commons license which may require attribution or other restrictions in order for it to be used without legal repercussions.

Try using a reverse image search to find the copyright holder. If you can’t find it, then it is best not to use the image, even if it was found on a free stock photo website.

What should you do if you find an image on Google Images that you'd like to use?

If you are looking for an image that is free to use, there are many websites where you can find copyright-free images.

Here are some royalty free websites you can check out:

These websites provide copyright free images that you are free to use without permission from the copyright holder.

What are the consequences of using images without permission?

An image showing yellow tape with caution written on it

Using an image without permission from the copyright holder can lead to copyright infringement. The copyright holder has the right to take legal action against you which could include financial penalties and other consequences.

There has been a sudden increase in the amount of companies who are using reverse image technology to identify copyright infringements. This means that copyright holders are able to more easily identify copyright infringing use of their images and take legal action against them.

We urge everyone online to use copyright free images or seek permission from copyright holders before using their images.

In some cases reported to us at Marketing Optimised, we have seen clients fined with no warning due copyright infringement and website owners having to pay thousands in damages as a result of copyright infringement.

To avoid this, always make sure you either use copyright free images or seek permission from the copyright holder before using any image online.


Google Images is a great tool for finding images online, but it does not mean that all the images you find are free to use. You should always check the copyright information before using an image and make sure it is copyright free or you have permission from the copyright holder to use it.

In addition, there are many websites where you can find copyright free images that you are free to use without any worries. If you do not take the necessary steps, you may find yourself in legal hot water with copyright infringement resulting in large fines and other consequences.

It pays off to be aware of copyright laws and understand what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to using images online.

If you have been targeted for copyright infringement, contact us at Marketing Optimised for copyright infringement help. We can assist with copyright infringement notices and copyright disputes.


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