Is using an image you found on Google search stealing?

You need an image for your print ad or to include in your digital advertisement or social media post so you turn to your computer and visit Google. But before you’re tempted to snag that fantastic image you found through a Google image search, take a minute and listen to the MC Hammer song, “Can’t Touch This” and take the advice.

Using an image you found on the internet might seem harmless, but it could cause your website/social media account to be taken down, cost you thousands of dollars in fines and even imprisonment if you are found guilty of copyright infringement according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

  • An image found on the internet is subject to the same copyright laws as if you found it in a book, magazine, or broke into someone’s home and stole their camera. Just because you found a photo online and used it, even without intentionally meaning to violate the law, doesn’t mean you won’t be held accountable.
  • According to the United Sates Copyright Office, the copyright symbol, while it may appear on or in connection with a photo on the internet, is not required to secure a copyright. Copyright is implied and reserved to the originator of a work of art including photography. While the copyright symbol might make it easier to prove ownership in court, it is not required on digital media.
  • While there are many great "free" stock photography sites out there, you need to check the terms of use carefully for each image you would like to use. While many allow for editorial use (such as in a blog post or press release), many do not extend to commercial use. This means that if you use a free image licensed for personal use on a business related project, you are in violation of the terms of use and may be subject to criminal copyright infringement.
  • If you pay a designer to create your advertising content or have an employee who innocently grabs a photo from the internet to use in your print ad, blog post, or presentation, your company is ultimately responsible for the copyright infringement. Make sure you know where your images are sourced from and be sure to secure the correct license for use.
  • If you are not sure who owns the license to images used on your website or you need quality high resolution images for a project, contact Hudson Valley Web Design to do the work for you.