Most people know that it’s easy to find images by searching Google Image Search. But not all the images you find through such a search are legal to use. Here are some tips and tools for avoiding copyright issues.
When you find an image that seems perfect for a page or post of your website – say, a mouth-watering picture of pancakes for that article about the pancake breakfast fundraiser – look at the website where the picture is being displayed.
Obviously, if the picture is from the IHOP website, it’s going to be copyrighted. But sometimes, other people have violated copyright law to use IHOP’s photo, so just because it’s on someone’s blog doesn’t mean that it’s fair game. You (and your organization) are responsible for the images you use on your site, and the fines can be thousands of dollars.
A very helpful tool is TinEye.com, a reverse image search. On their site, you can either upload an image file, or paste in the URL of the photo that you found on Google Image, and TinEye will show you all the places on the web where that picture occurs. Then you can look for indications that the image might be copyrighted. For instance, you should be able to see if an image is a stock photo being sold on a service like istockphoto.com or gettyimages.com.
One helpful tip is to sort your TineEye.com search results by date, displaying the oldest results first. This should give you some indications about where the photo might have originated, but should not be taken as definitive, since stock photo sites might have been reorganized and changed their URLs, so you might not see this particular photo appearing on the stock photo site until later in date.
TinEye Makes browser add-ins for all the major website browsers, which makes searching images even easier. Once you have the added installed and activated, you only need to right-click on an image and then choose “Search Image on TinEye”. The search results will open in a new tab or window.
Have questions about copyrights for images? Leave your question in the comments.