Copyright Law + Using Images and Photos from Google

Have You Found the Perfect Image on Google?

How many times have you used Google and found the perfect image or photograph? As tempting as it is to copy and paste that image and perhaps even manipulate it for your purposes, you need to consider copyright law before doing so.

Google is a search engine that helps you locate content such as images and photos. It is not a content depository, and it is not a collection of public domain or copyright-free works. Google points you to images and photos according to your search criteria. Once you find that perfect image or photo, you must take certain steps before you may legally use it.

Assume that Online Content is Protected by Copyright

To start, you should assume that all online images are protected by copyright. Then do your research to determine if the image you want to use actually requires permission. For example, images and photographs in the public domain do not require permission. Is there a Creative Commons license attached to the image or photograph that permits limited or unlimited use of that image without communicating with the copyright owner? Are there terms of use attached to the image or photograph? If so, read the terms of use or copyright information to see whether the illustrator or photographer allows you to use the image or photo for certain purposes without obtaining permission from him. If you do not see such permission clearly indicated, then you need to obtain permission before using the image or photo.

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Click for information on my eTutorial, Legally Using Images.


  1. Thanks for discussing an Important issue. Publishing on the web is subject to the same laws as publishing in print always has been, yet for some reason people think “it’s on the web so it must be free” then get angry when they find they have misinformed themselves.

  2. Lesley says:

    Hi CK, references are not a violation of copyright so you do not need permission to reference a book.

  3. CK says:

    My question is, if a book is being written as fiction and there are references to (real) published (non-fiction) books and their authors, is permission needed to reference them?

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