If you are an online entrepreneur developing your own website or a blogger writing an article, you will need to use images. But where to find images and how not to get in trouble using them? After all, penalties for copyright infringement are significant.
A natural inclination for many of those who are inexperienced in intellectual property matters is to simply do a Google search and copy whatever images they like. Surely, this is a fast way to find good images for your website or blog, but this approach will probably get you into trouble just as fast. You see, Google does not usually own the images its search engine displays, and you cannot acquire any legal rights by searching on Google and copying those images. If the rightful owner of the copied images finds out about your actions (and there are many technological tools to do it), you may be liable for copyright infringement. To avoid finding yourself in hot water, there are several simple rules you can follow:
First, if you want to use an image you found on Google or elsewhere, try to figure out who owns the image and what rights they claim. It is usually not so difficult to do, but if after your research you are still in doubt as to ownership and rights – err on the side of caution. That will be cheaper for you in the long term, trust me.
You can also try to determine if an image was created under the “Creative Commons” license (which is a form of protection similar to copyright but less restrictive and which usually allows copying and most use). You can also utilize the collection of “Creative Commons” images by searching in this database: http://search.creativecommons.org
Another option is to use one of the “stock photos” websites, but those are usually fee-based. There are many of such websites, but I will not name any of them here - I have no intention to be perceived as promoting anything. You can easily find those websites if you simply search for “stock photos” on Google.
The “stock photos” websites usually provide very clear guidance as to how you can use their photographs and imagery. As long as you comply with that guidance, you should be fine. Of course, you will have to pay to get most of the photos and images from such website (I did mention such websites are fee-based, did not I?) but those fees are typically rather affordable (a few cents to a few dollars), so they should not break even a very small budget.
Of course, there are many websites that claim to provide free images and photographs, but you should be careful about those. There is usually no free lunch, and “free” images may come with a catch, sometimes if the form of a Trojan virus or something just as bad. If you decide to copy images from such a website, make sure you do your diligence and proceed with caution.
Those are just a few things you should keep in mind – they will help to stay out of legal trouble. Also, I came across a guidance written by MIT regarding use of online images. I found it useful, so you might want to check that as well: [MIT