November 3, 2013 — Very often, you read posts where writers, with the best of intentions, give credit to Google Images as the source of the images they use in their post with the words “Photo Credit: Google Images.” Well let’s clear this up, Google Images is a search engine and does not own the copyright for the images that appear in Google Searches and neither can they grant permission for you to use such images. The copyright in images that appear in Google searches are owned by the creator of the image, the photographer or as outlined in the licensing terms at the original source.
A typical Google Image search will produce results similar to the image we have below. To get this, we searched for “20543, Nigeria”. 20543 is the toll free number set up by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for consumers to report cases of adverse drug reaction.
The arrow labelled “1” clearly indicates that “Images may be subject to copyright” and serves as the initial notification that using the image may be a violation of the copyright belonging to someone else.
The arrow labelled “2” provides a link to the “original source” of the image, in this case “www.nlipw.com”. By linking to the original source, Google images notifies you that they are not meant to be used as the original source. Again, a simple click on the image itself will take you to the source of the image.
But please keep in mind that often times the image may have been used by a site that does not have copyright in the image (these images will also appear in Google Images). Not only are such sites not the original source but they cannot grant you permission to use images covered by copyright.
So, what should you do in a situation where you find an image through Google Images that you wish to use?
Look to see if the image is licensed through Creative Commons in which case you can use the image for free, provided you follow the conditions of the license i.e. as it relates to commercial and non-commercial use. If there is no Creative Commons license, a good way to avoid ending up in a copyright infringement suit for posting and sharing copyright protected images on your blog, website and on social media, is to reach out to the source where the image is posted to confirm whether or not they are the original source and then ask for consent to use the image. Often times owners of copyright will grant you consent provided you properly credit them and provide a link to the original source.