5 dangers of using Google Images without permission

So you are in a rush, have very little time, know that your stock photo credits need to be purchased, and you only need one photo. Quickly, you do a Google Image and find a photo that would work for your blog post. You decide to upload the image to your blog and walk away from your desk feeling accomplished as your deadline was met. The five minutes you saved by using a Google Image will come back to haunt you and cost you more than a few stock photo credits. Read on and find out why.

If you made the mistake of stealing an image from the web using Google and then using it in your design, you are still on time to correct it and save yourself a lot of trouble. Learn how post-licensing agreements work to turn stolen images into licensed images!
Want to know how to use Google's reverse image search to find an image’s source? Here’s how it works.
To learn why you definitely should use this feature, check out our post with the benefits of reverse image search for designers!
And read here if you are after random images.

Google Image use requires permission—nothing is for free


There are plagiarism laws for using other people's text or ideas. Similar laws —copyright laws— protect the unauthorized use of images. If you did not create it, you do not have the right to use it. If you want to use text or an image, permission has to be obtained from the ORIGINAL author or, in the case of images, the original designer or photographer. If you hold the belief that what is on the internet is free, this belief, which is only a belief, will land you in more problems than you would think. Lawsuits are one issue, but other issues will also follow if you use Google Images without permission.

Cease will be followed by a lawsuit


Photographers are using more online tools to find offenders of image stealing. We hate to use the term, stealing, but using images without permission is stealing. When a photographer finds their image on a website, an ad, or a blog post, they will start the friendly process of requesting that you remove the image. If you choose not to honor their request, a Cease and Desist order will follow. If you again decide to ignore the creator's request, a lawsuit will follow. There are many examples documented online of an artist or photographer suing for unauthorized use of images. The lawsuit can be costly and even more so a headache. Is it worth it when a stock photo costs a few cents if not a few bucks?

Google Penguin could penalize your blog or website


Photographers are embedding metadata on their photos, so they can track where their photos are used and gain internet search engines in the event their work is used, and they do not catch it for a little while. If you grab an online photo, download it, and then upload it to your online assets, Google will read the embedded information and see it to be duplicate content. If you buy a generic stock photo, Google duplicate metadata will not be shown on your stock photo. This penalty from Google Penguin will only happen when you use an image that was already posted online. Google Penguin has the power to decrease and drop your ranking on their search engine so that your digital assets rank lower than before. Is a free photo worth that risk?

Embarrassing and detrimental to your reputation

If a lawsuit is exposed think of the financial damage but also think of the reputation damage. When it all comes down to it, your personal brand or your business only has its reputation. Damaging that reputation will damage your profits and in some cases could close your doors or dissolve your readership. With social media helping people spread the word, do you really want to take that risk? You can work harder to regain money lost to lawyers, but it is very hard to change a damaged reputation.

Discredits your blog and brand


People read blog posts, watch social media feeds and follow you based on the credibility you have earned. It will be pretty hard to maintain your credibility either as a person, a brand, or a business if it is discovered that you ‘stole' an image. Intellectual property in the digital age of ideas, creations, and online assets is important and for many, it is how they make their living. If you discredit your online image, you might as well kiss your readership goodbye. Gaining that credit back is harder than making your first million, and there is no guarantee that you will obtain that credit again.

Unauthorized image use applies to online and offline use

If you find the perfect image online and think that using the image in print media will protect you, think again. Any use, whether it be online or offline of an image or design that you do not have permission to use, will result in some letters from the creator if not their lawyer.

There is no reason to take the risk of unauthorized use – none

With hundreds of cheap stock photo agencies offering images for as little as 28 cents an image or in the case of a single image purchase, maybe USD 3 or even USD 10, is stealing online photos and designs worth it?

Stock photo agencies exist solely to sell the rights to images and designs. There is no reason or need to take images online without permission just to save time or money when you can find original quality photos for very affordable prices that are safe to use. If you do find an image online and cannot find the image on any of the stock photo websites, seek permission from the original creator. A third-party user does not have the legal ability to sell or authorize the use of someone's creative work. The only person who provides permission (and gets it in writing) is the original designer or photographer. If you can not find the person, then you still do not have the right to use the photo.

Check out our list of the 5 Cheapest Stock Photo Agencies

#1. Stockphotos.com

Stockphotos Logo Tight

On Stockphotos.com, you can find high-res, royalty-free images for as little as 20¢. There are multiple buying options, from image packs to subscriptions with annual download limits according to your needs. Check out the awesome Club Easy deal, one of the most popular offers. And don't miss the special Stockphotos.com coupon to get 10 extra downloads for free!

#2. Shutterstock


The lowest price on Shutterstock is 28¢ for one royalty free stock photo. When you sign up for Shutterstock, you will also have access to their weekly free photos and other bonuses. Check out the weekly Shutterstock free photos available at Stock Photo Secrets.

EXCLUSIVE OFFER:  10% Off with our exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code

#3. iStock

istock logo very small > 5 dangers of using Google Images without permission

iStock sells both exclusive and budget royalty free photos, both on-demand with credits and under subscriptions. The lowest price per image is 26¢, and by signing up for free you can access their weekly free photos among other perks. Check here for more details on how to get iStock photos for free.

#4. Adobe Stock

adobe stock logo 1 > 5 dangers of using Google Images without permission

Adobe Stock is accessible from any Creative Cloud application as well as through their site and offers different subscription plans and credit packs. You can buy images for as little as 26¢ each. But you can also test the service and download up to 10 free images using the Adobe Stock Free Trial.

#5. Dreamstime


The lowest price on Dreamstime is 20¢ for one royalty-free stock photo. They also have a free photo gallery when you sign up at Dreamstime. Dreamstime has a very flexible buying system that will get you to the 20¢ per photo price easily. Their sign-up is easy and fast.

Find out more about the unauthorized use of images and make sure you are doing everything right. Ignorance is not a defense, nor will a photographer appreciate your ignorance when they see you using their photos without permission. If you are a photographer and want to increase protection for your photos, check out Stipple, an online and mobile app that helps you protect and watch your photos online.

At any of these agencies, you can find the right image for your project with a valid commercial use license.

FAQ About Google Images

How do you search using images on Google?

Go to Google Search and hit the colorful camera icon on the right side of the search bar to open the Google Lens search window. Either drag and drop your image into the field, click on “upload your file” to select it from a computer folder, or paste the image URL on the link bar and hit “search.” The engine will then show search results that match your image or display similar images to the one you uploaded. Remember that images indexed and shown in search results are NOT necessarily free to download and use; in fact, most of them are copyrighted and require permission to be used.

How do I view Google Images?

Open the Google search in your browser, and type in your keywords –or use the reverse image search explained above–. On the results page, click on the “images” tab to see only results with pictures from Google Images. You may also use the “videos” tab to see video results.

What images are free on Google?

When you use Google Images to find photos that match a search term, you'll see a list of filters at the top of the page. The “Usage Rights” filter has two options: Creative Commons licenses, which are usually free to use under certain parameters, and Commercial and other licenses, which are paid to stock photos.

Image: Screenshot of Google Images and IngImage.com

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

Amos Struck, a renowned expert with over two decades in the stock photography industry, is known for his profound expertise in both stock imagery and artificial intelligence (AI). He is the founder of StockPhotoSecrets.com and a driving force behind the innovative AI-driven platform, Stockphotos.com. His pioneering work in visual AI is marked by co-founding Ximilar AI. Amos also established the Microstock Expo Conference, a key event in the stock photography sector. As a regular speaker at major industry conferences like DMLA and a prominent member of CEPIC, he consistently contributes to the industry's growth and evolution through a blend of technological innovation and market insight.

1 Comment
  1. You could quote an image, with proper mention of the source, like you quote passages in books. That’s no violation of copyright.
    The emphasis in this article on intellectual property defeats the interest of free sharing of ideas, which is at the heart of the internet itself. If you do not want to get copied, don’t go to the internet. You may try to earn money there, but do not hamper our freedom to use the internet as a free resource. It’s a new kind of economy there.

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