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The other day I was talking to a business contact who had had a very bad and expensive experience, when he engaged a developer to build his website for him. Having no photographic images to place on his website, the developer had done a Google image search and just downloaded a few images and placed them on the website.

The website looked great and the owner was more than happy with the result. A few weeks later, the website owner received a snailmail letter, from Getty images!

Wow, a letter from Getty images!

It turned out that the letter was a demand for $9000 royalty fee, for the use of one of their images on his website.

Wooh! The website owner obviously contacted the developer to get him to explain why he’d been slapped with a bill for $9000. To cut a long story short, the developer denied all knowledge and washed his hands of it.

The website owner managed to negotiate down the royality fee, but still ended up with large bill!

The moral: Don’t use or let developers use just any old images!

Here’s how to get free images properly (but, you must use your own due dilligance. By following these methods you cannot hold me responsible for their use!).

The first advice is use your own images, obviously!

If you don’t have your own images or your camera skills are lacking, then go to royality free stock image websites. Yes you’ll pay a fee but that fee is tiny compared to the copyright fines that you could face!

Here’s a few:  

If you do use Google images to search for images to use, there is an advanced option that allows you to filter the image results to find images that are “labeled for reuse”, note the term, this does not imply that the images are free of copyright. Do a search for the type of image that you are looking for, as below:

google image search

When you get the results, click on the “Search Tools” button (circled in the above image). New menu options appear below, like this:

google search tools

Now, click on the “Usage rights” option, a new menu will appear: image usage rights menu As you can see, these options allow you to filter the results to ensure that the images that you want to use can actually be reused.

The thing about this is that if you select ‘Labeled for reuse’, the number of available images will drop, sometimes dramically, so you may need to use other options for your images.

A similar search can be done on Go to Flickr aand do a search for the type of image you are looking for. For instance, here I’ve done a search for people images.

people images on flickr

As you can see, under the main header, three more search options have appeared. Now, click on the License: link and a

dropdown menu will appear. image license options By clicking on ‘Commercial use allowed’, the number of images in the results will reduce down to those that have been marked as allowable for reuse. To further check the usage rights of these images, click on an image, the screen will change and in the bottom right-hand corner you will see a link “Some rights reserved”, click on it.

A new window will open and you can the read if you can or cannot use the image and how it may be used.

image useage rights


If you are building a website (or having one built), adding a blog post or posting to social media and want images, do not just go to Google and ‘steal’ an image, make sure you are allowed to use that image.

The internet is a big place, but using images taken from someone elses website could be an expensive exercise. Remember, these are usage clauses, not free-from-copyright clauses.

In most cases, the image copyright will always remain with the original creator and it is always best to contact the image owner to ask if you can use the image. Often you’ll get a ‘yes, as long as you link back to my website’ type of response, but be prepared for a no or yes but it will cost you x amount.

Disclaimer: I’m not a copyright expert or legal expert, please seek legal advise before using any copyrighted material.

The images on this page are screen captures taken by me for illustration purposes only, the websites and content referenced here are copyright the respective owners. Oh, and I wrote this post so I have copyright!
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