Can I Use Google Images For My Website?

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?

Not really.

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.


Looting Spots

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:


PexelsUse pexels for free stock images for your UK business website design.

Use pexels for free stock images for your business website design.
Use pexels for free stock images for your business website design.
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.




FlickrUse pexels for free stock images for your UK business website design.

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.





UnsplashUse pexels for free stock images for your UK business website design.

Use pexels for free stock images for your UK business website design.

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 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 among 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.

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