Don’t Lift Images From Google: Here’s Why…

by | Oct 17, 2022 | Blog

We have all made the mistake before of using images for our own use that we have found on a Google search and not thinking twice about the consequences.

After all, it is easy to assume that Google Images is an open catalogue of images to choose from for your own liking. When in reality, this can lead to many complications for your business if you have used others’ images on your website or social media.

This can prove to be an extremely expensive mistake to make. In the world of image use, you can no longer just assume that images are there to be used and no consequences will follow. Google DOES NOT allow the use of its or other images for your own use, as this is copyright.

Many website or business owners do not understand the regulations of using other people’s images, as the visual rights group can subsequently ask for payment for these images, or worse, get your website URL shut down.

This is why we at Dynamic have licenced stock images that we pay for, so we have permission to use these images when building websites or for our own use. Subsequent fines can be a large amount of money, so it is never worth taking the risk of using an image that you didn’t take or source from a paid license.

This is why we have set out a quick guide to Image Copyright Law in the UK, to help ensure you avoid getting slammed with a hefty fine in the future.


  • Every Image Has Copyright

Yes, we mean EVERY image! It does not matter if you have taken them as part of a photoshoot for a client, or even pictures taken of your time at the pub on the weekend, there is copyright in place for all images. In the UK, a copyright is automatically assigned to every image that is created, at the moment of creation. Photographers don’t have to apply for a Copyright: it just immediately exists. And it lasts until 70 years have passed since the creator’s death.

This goes to prove that no matter what image you find online, there is an owner out there somewhere who may not be happy with you using their imagery. All Google does is show you any image that fits your search criteria. Those images will not be free to use if you do a generic search.


  • Using An Image Without A Licence Is A Civil Offence

You can only use an image if you have the copyright-holder’s permission. This permission is known as a licence, and you must apply for it. If you use an image without a licence, you’re breaking Copyright Law and can be fined large sums of money. The starting point for fines is the cost of the original licence, per image. Then, extra charges can be added on top. If you use an image for your business website, the photographer could say you have profited from the image and ask for those profits to be added to the fine.

And do not think this has never happened before! Many business owners up and down the country have accidentally fallen short of Copyright Law, and been caught and fined by Getty, the owners of the largely popular Getty Images.

An example would be a business up in Guildford, where a dental practice unknowingly used a licensed image on their site. It was an image of a teething baby for use on one of their blogs, as a staff member had copied it from Google; there was no watermark, or name, so it was assumed that the picture was not under licence.

The practice immediately took down the image once Getty Images had contacted them about the image, but it was too late. They were presented with the option of either paying a settlement figure of £249 or having legal action taken against them. But don’t be put off by small sums like this example, by breaking the law for copyright infringement, it can in some cases be deemed as a criminal offence, with damages awarded by a court. Depending on the severity of the infringement, the result can be a fine in the tens of thousands or even imprisonment.


  • Images Are Incredibly Easy To Trace

Photographers regularly run image searches for their work (called Reverse Searches), where they can find specific pictures anywhere on the internet. Google have been incredibly helpful in catching out those who use other people’s images, as with just the right click on any image on the internet, you can utilise the ‘Search Image With Google Lens’ feature, which searches the whole internet for this particular image.

The large image-stock companies, like Getty, use special software to crawl the web and seek out unlicensed images, as some people may have hidden pages using their images.


Top Tip: Some business owners believe that adding the photographer’s name as a credit removes the possibility of a fine, as you are crediting the owner of the image. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Some photographers might give you free use of their images in return for publicity (like a credit, or a link to their website), but you’ll need to contact them first to work out a deal.


If you have any further questions or queries that you need answering surrounding copyright and the use of licensed images, you can contact us today!