No one likes a thief. Even an accidental one. If someone steals your parking spot without realising it, you will probably feel just as annoyed as if they did it on purpose. Theft is theft. Intentions are secondary.
Is Your Website A Thief?
So the question needs to be answered: Is your website a thief when it comes to images?
Are you like the accidental space-thief in the car park, claiming innocence, wondering why the car behind is blasting their horn?
If you are, you are an absolute disgrace.
Only joking. You probably just never knew about the copyright laws that exist on many images you will find on Google, and that to legally use an image, it has to be correctly licensed…
Google Is Not For Looting
For some website owners, the Google image search became an un-manned photo gallery, a place where they could jump in through the open windows, loot the joint for all it was worth, and escape with so many images that they were dropping them as they ran away into anonymity.
There were security guards, but they were slow, distant and silent. By the time you’ve run off with your images, these sleeping guards might not have even seen that you’ve ransacked the place.
It’s only a few months down the line, when you wake up to find an email entitled “Copyright Infringement”, that you begin to fear you have been caught. Your reputation is at risk. Those guards finally caught up with you, relentlessly chasing you down at an admittedly sluggish pace.
And what’s worse, is that they bring solicitors. With hefty fines.
Even if you didn’t realise you were looting – is that even a reasonable or believable excuse?
So wise up before those guards track you down and make you pay for making them run…
The Public Domain
If an image is in the public domain, it is like the gallery owner putting a sign on the window saying:
“Take Whatever You Want. Use It As You Want. I Don’t Give a Darn.”
It’s no longer stealing if it’s in the public domain. It’s free for you to use, and it means the owner doesn’t care how you use it. They don’t even want credit for it.
You can use the image for marketing, in commercial products, on your website – anything.
It’s also denoted by the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license – if you see this, it’s free pickings for all.
You are liberated within the public domain. It is a thief’s paradise.
The Creative Commons License
This one is more tricky.
This is like the gallery owner over the road drawing up a less appealing sign. It reads:
“Images Free To Use, But Don’t Take The Mick. Terms And Conditions Apply. Enquire Within.”
It’s not a free-for-all loot as with the public domain.
You simply have to read the details of the license of the image to see how you can use it, and under what conditions.
A bird photographer might be singing with joy if you use her image in any way. But she wants credit for it and a link to her website.
An aircraft photographer might be uplifted to see his image on your blog. But he won’t let you use it to promote your new book about the history of Boeing.
There are terms and conditions to the creative commons licence. Make sure you read them and stick to them. You can usually contact the owner of the image if you have any questions.
All Rights Reserved
Also denoted by the word “copyright”.
This is like the final gallery owner putting up his own sign. It reads:
“Hands Off. Don’t Even Think About Using My Images For Yourself.”
This one is clear. Don’t use it. If you can’t access the license for the image, assume the owner has placed this sign directly over their image.
Now you know what images you can use and which you can’t.
This begs the next question…
Where can you find these delightful hubs where people are actually welcomed to wander in, take what they want and leave without even saying thanks?
Here are some places you can visit:
Pexels are for the serious image looters. The high rollers who have no time to go wading through licenses.
All of Pexel’s images are in the public domain under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, and their legal summary of all their images is simple and easy to read.
A great one for ease and transparency of use. You can run wild.
Flickr is a good hub for images because you can tailor your search to specific license agreements. You can search for “no known copyright restrictions” (public domain), “commercial use allowed”, “modifications allowed” and more.
Licenses are easy to access by clicking the bottom right corner of each image. And they have some great images from excellent photographers. Check them out.
The unsplash license is clear. Their images can be used for free, for commercial and non-commercial purposed, without needing to ask permission or give credit.
Plus they have plenty of HD images to look great on a website. It’s a sweet deal.
The name says it all. Tons of free images, searchable by category. Loot your heart out.
In their own words: “Hundreds of high resolution images added weekly. Free from copyright restrictions.” Great.
Founded and run by self-confessed coffee addict Karolina, this is a one-woman show with over seven thousand beautiful free images for you to use.
If we were cool kids in America ten years ago, we would have said “It’s the bomb”.
With over 3000 CC0 images and growing, this site has plenty of images in different categories, managed and maintained by a small team of contributors.
Set up by the folks at ISO Republic, Foodie Factor is full of images within a certain genre. Can you guess what it is?
Another one for foodies. Foodiesfeed are aiming to eliminate “ugly sterile stock photos” from the face of the earth, at least when it comes to food.
It’s a photo buffet.
Mostly free images to use as you wish, with a few premium ones if you want to exchange some cash.
Created with love by Ryan McGuire, Gratisography has some really interesting and unusual images. All free to use.
Named after a popular photography technique to focus on the centre of the image, Negative Space is about building a community of talented photographers along with happy, unrestricted image users.
You can use these images for free, but you must provide credit. You must!
A popular one with over two million downloads to date, SplitShire has one mission: “Helping you to be awesome out there with great content.”
Loads of free images for personal and professional use.
More than just photos. Freepik helps you to find free vector art, illustrations, icons, Photoshop images and photos for using in websites, banners, presentations, magazines and more.
Free pics for all, but beware – no mass distribution allowed (more than ten images) without written consent from Life Of Pix.
The beauty of the public domain, all in one place.
With over 27,000 images, StockPhotos.io was created by David Choi, a full time web designer and developer based in NewYork City. Created to provide material for his own work, the website has now turned into a public platform for free stock images.
Credit to the original photography is not needed, but highly recommended.
Launched by Jeffrey Baits in 2014 to share his love of photography with the world, there are plenty of free photos to download use and redistribute for both personal and commercial purposes. Categories include nature, city scenes, workspaces and macro photography.
Also includes free videos.
New high resolution pictures added every month for personal and commercial use. Attribution not required.
Free CCO Licensed pics for you do use as you wish. “Make magic”, as the founder says.
Search by images by categories, URL or by colours, to use however you wish…
A querky resource as the image might suggest. One of their most recent galleries is “Harry Styles”, but their categories go in many directions. Over 27,000 free images in PNG format.
A free CC0 photo content site “for digital nomads, location independent workers and travelling wine drinkers.”
Premium plans also available.
A collection of images dubbed “non-stock” for their high quality and uniqueness, Barnimages was founded in March 2015 by two Latvian photographers to redefine traditional stock imagery. Images are frer to use, but the copyright reamins with the creator.
EveryPexel is a powerful search engine that allows you to search through 51 paid and free stock image websites – in seconds. Designed to save you time, you can also search exclusively for free images.
Perfectly named, the nature stock photos are free to use however you wish. Resource created by Adrian Pelletier, and is updated daily.
Mostly free images, with premium HD images also available. Images are divided into collections and categories.
Created at 2014 by web designer Jan Vasek in Prague, Czech Republic, this resource is to share his images with anyone who wants to use them.
Founded by amateur photographers who are now pros, Skitterphoto likes to provide quality photos and give photographers a platform to share their work.
Diverse UI is a free set of user images that can be used in personal or commercial projects, at any stage of the process. They just advise you not to use the images for evil purposes. You should be fine.
Gorgeous high resolution images, all free to use under the CC0 license. Simple.
Tons of free images of women, taken by women. Free and unlimited downloads.
A free hand-picked high-resolution photo every day, all in the public domain. Take your pick.
Librestock scan and index the best free photos from the best stock sites, so that you can get your ideal image faster. Genius. Plus there’s videos.
Using Adobe Stock is like paying a fee at the door before you go looting. It is a premium resource for high quality images.
We can say from personal experience that Adobe Stock is a great resource for images. Every one of our clients who has a website built by us and is being hosted on our servers, has Adobe Stock images individually licensed to them as part of our service.
The images will do a great job in illustrating themes, businesses and core values, if you have the right person to choose them.
The only thing stopping you from no longer stealing copyrighted images from Google, is perhaps the final question…
Will I Even Get Caught?
This is perhaps the most common question amongst professional thieves.
“I know it’s stealing, but will I even get found out?”
If you have to ask – maybe you deserve to get caught.
Who knows? Some people get away with it. Others don’t.
If the image owner wants to check the web to see if anyone is stealing their images, all they have to do is use a cheap image web-searching service such as Copyscape, and then WHAM! They’ve got you bang to rights.
From there, the kindest thing they can do is ask you to take the image down, or give them appropriate credit. If they really wanted, they could take you to court.
We have seen numerous examples of people using copyrighted images on their website, only to be later fined for hundreds, even thousands of pounds.
Who needs the worry, the hassle, the risk to one’s own reputation and finances? I doubt you need it. I doubt you lie in bed, praying for more stresses and worries and legalities to deal with the next day.
So do yourself a favour. It’s simple. Check the license. Adhere to it. Respect the creator, and make your website a law-abiding citizen.