Avoid copyright infringement UK

You need are some great pictures to support your content and website. Simple, let’s go grab a few pictures from Google images. As long as there’s no copyright symbol © you’ll be fine, and no one will ever know, right? Wrong!!!!!!!



Can you use pictures from the internet without permission?

You need are some great pictures to support your content and website. Simple, let’s go grab a few pictures from Google images.  As long as there’s no copyright symbol © you’ll be fine, and no one will ever know, right?


We all know that content with images gets more engagement. If you don’t have the time, or the know-how, to create your own visual content from scratch, you need to know how to properly find and use images created by others. Image copyright is not everyone’s idea of fun!!! But if you are using social media for your marketing, it’s a need-to-know. Marketing activity is classed as commercial when it come to images.

Who owns the copyright of a photograph?

So the basics, image copyright is the legal ownership of an image. For example all the photographs I take I own the copyright. I am the creator and copyright is automatic, it gives me exclusive rights to display and recreate my work in any way I wish.

Photographs, illustrations and other images will generally be protected by copyright. This means that a user will usually need the permission of the copyright owner if they want to perform certain acts, such as copying the image or sharing it on the internet.

If you decide to use a copyrighted image you did not create yourself without permission, you are stealing and you could end up in court. Court cases can be expensive, as they often result in the user of the image paying the cost to use the photo, plus legal costs of themselves and the copyright owner and possibly other financial compensation for copyright infringement, which may amount to more than the cost of a licence to use the image.

Image copyright

Just because an image appears in a Google search doesn’t mean that it’s free to use.  The vast majority of images on the internet are likely to be protected by copyright.

The copyright symbol © does not have to be present for copyright to exist, so just because there is no name or copyright symbol associated with a photo or image does not mean the image is not protected by copyright.

Metadata is embedded within the image and can give details of the copyright owner. Deliberate removal of metadata that identifies the copyright owner is unlawful.

This flow chart shows you what you can and can’t do regarding images.

How licensing relates to copyright?

If you wish to use copyright material, you need to get permission from the rights holder to do so. Usually, this permission takes the form of a licence.

When you purchase an image, you are purchasing the licence to use the image, you do not own the image.

For example: I give a commercial license, with my purchased images. This allows my clients to use their images, they can print, duplicate, and share, But they cannot alter them, or re-sell them. I still hold the copyright, you do not own the file, but you have the right to use it.

This is not unique to me, most of the photographers I know, will have a contact in place which will state the licence given and any restrictions.

find out more here:  Government Copyright Publication

What makes a good marketing picture?

The fact is, in marketing design is very important. It’s not enough to have wonderfully crafted text on your website, you also need some great images to go along with them.

The best images are those that are unique and relevant for your business, you should consider hiring a professional photographer.  If you discuss what you need and plan your shoot well, you will end up with some stunning pictures that will enhance your website and be well worth the outlay.  Read my blog on the benefits.

But if you don’t want to take your own photos or can’t afford a photographer then there are other options that you can use.

Stock Photography Websites

There are many commercial stock photo sites who manage pictures on behalf of photographers and ensure they get paid if their work is used. 

You’ll almost certainly find suitable photos and you’ll know that having paid a fee to use the image, you can safely use that image for business purposes. Just be careful and do you research stock photos can do more harm than good: Read my blog about the pitfalls of using Stock images.

Here are a few stock sites to look at:

Free images Without Copyright

Non-copyrighted images are those that not subject to copyright; they don’t have a legal owner. Be it because the author photographer is unknown, the author’s rights have expired, or the author voluntarily ceded their rights, non copyright photos belong to everyone.

However, there are certain disadvantages that come with using non-copyrighted images. Some of them can be of poor quality compared to the copyrighted ones. High quality non-copyrighted images may be very common,  and are not very  effective. You might do more harm than good, it’s your brand, don’t make your content marketing look cheap.

Having said that here is a few to look at:

Let's talk about Canva

Canva is great and so easy to use,  and it has free photo files you can use for commercial and non-commercial use.

But it’s worth noting that if you are using licenced images that you have purchased from a third party, or a professional photographer. Read the Terms and Conditions, or Contract before you do anything.

You may own the licence but you do not own the image. So you can’t just change all the colours, crop it, or put a pretty little filter on it, without checking first.

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Before you use any images on your website or across social media, always make sure that you have the copyright owner’s permission and don’t assume that if it doesn’t have a copyright symbol that it’s okay to use. 

just remember

Google can be a great resource for so many things but finding images that you can legally use on your website and across your social media, is not one of them.