Using Images from google on your own website

I am a fresher into a job in web designing/development in India.The senior at the company which I have joined as a trainee uses mostly images from the Google search(many a times without even altering them) as backgrounds and other elements in professional websites.When I asked him about it he boasted of a 5 year experience in the field and said it was normal to use them. That had me wondering whether he was really right or not. I mean I also use some images from Google search, but they are mostly small elements like buttons etc., which are free for use from the author. For backgrounds i do use some Google images but I always for 70% part use some sort of formatting to pick out only certain areas within the image( never a full image, which is not submitted by client).Can anyone suggest what is right as I am confused whether to use such images( which of Course makes the work faster but less satisfying) or to go with my idea to develop in this field??

Hi devilsnare. Welcome to the forums. :slight_smile:

No, don’t assume that because you see an image on Google, you can just use it in your own projects. By default, images, text and so on are copyrighted material. So you need to check with the owner and get permission to use something that’s not your own. If owners have given permission on their websites for the content to be used freely (like buttons etc.), then that’s fine. But otherwise, you are basically stealing their content, and could get in trouble for it—or caught in devil’s snare :shifty:—if you aren’t careful.

Definitely not legal unless you have specific permission or the site you are taking it from indicates it’s okay. Even then you really should make sure that THEY have the right to offer the image to people. Basically if you don’t have the right to use the image, it’s copyright infringement and you can be sued for 6 figure sums (up to $150,000 per infringement in the US I believe). Even worse for you if you are doing this as part of a business - especially if you are using these on client’s sites. Some stock image companies actually have a bot that runs around the net identifying infringement, and it’s clever enough to spot it from very small elements even if it’s been changed from the original. They then send you an invoice for 4 or 5 figure sums per image, with a threat to sue if you don’t pay up.

Basically I would suggest you either buy from an official stock image resource, or buy a decent camera and take the pictures yourself.

[FONT=verdana]Just to add a point …

The title of your post refers to “images from Google”. The images you are referring to do not “belong” to Google, and it is not Google whose copyright you would be infringing if you used them. Google is merely the mechanism which finds the images for you. As the others have said, you need to obtain permission from the actual copyright holders in each case.

The reason I mention this point is that, if you are unclear about the role of Google in this context, you really need to brush up your knowledge on the which environment in which we are working.


If you use Google image search, then you can use the “Options” button at the top right of the results page to choose “Advanced Search”. At the bottom of this page is an option to filter results by usage rights, so you can find images which are free to use, share or modify for commercial purposes. Of course, before using these images you should still check that this is correct, because at the end of the day it is your responsibility to ensure you have permission to use the images.

Initially, I was involved in using the very same practice (using copyright images) on my site but in result I got a plethora of mails from image owners demanding to remove images ASAP. Since, it was a tough job to remover every image one by one, I started giving image credit to sites from where I used to download them. It worked. Today, I get lot of mails of appreciation from the other end for giving them backlink.

It should have nothing to do with it being such a ‘tough job’ for you to remove the images (oh the inconvenience!). It’s to do with the fact that unless you have a license to use the image or you can argue fair use, you are infringing the rights of the image owner.

You should contact the image owner first and ask them if it’s okay to use the image. Simple as that - I don’t see what’s so difficult. Taking the image and just giving credit does not absolve you from legal action - and don’t always assume the owner is just going to send you a cease and desist - they could simply come straight in with litigation. So far, you’ve been lucky - not every rights holder is going to be so forgiving, especially if you are using their image for commercial reasons.

Also, because you take specific parts of an image or heavily edit them it doen’t mean you own the image

Just because you give credit to the owner you stole the image from doesn’t suddenly mean you didn’t steal it. Sounds like you were extremely fortunate that the owners decided to allow you to use the images in return for acknowledging them - they could just as easily have used that credit as additional evidence that the images really were stolen from them. Presumably none of the images came from a stock photo site as crediting the image would not have stopped them suing you for huge sums.

I agree with shadowbox. You should contact the image owner and if he allows to use the image then it would be good enough. if you use get an image from Google and use it on your website, it will be something like stealing and illegal.