What You Need To Know About Using Google Images

Image by PICHA contributor Emmanuel Obuobi and insights by PICHA legal advisor, Susan Guya.

Most of us use interact with social media multiple times daily and, as we come up with posts, advertise or create other related digital content, we sometimes rely on Google images to help us in this pursuit of likes, shares and growing our following. 

The use of these images without authorization can bring up various legal hiccups and lead to many complications. What starts as a simple “copy and paste” could end up as a hefty fine and other unsavoury consequences.

It is illegal to use any image that is protected under copyright without the necessary permission or license giving permission. 

“Google is a search engine that helps you locate content such as images, photos and other content… Google search engine is not a collection of public domain or copyright free works”


When looking to use Google images one should operate under the assumption that all the images are protected by copyright. Therefore, the next step would be to do some research and verify whether the image is actually protected under copyright and, if not, what are the terms of use. To find the terms of use, you can do an advanced search on Google and type “usage rights” to see what licenses are available and how the image can be used.

There are images that grant free permission for use however terms may vary with regard to being able to share, edit or modify the image. It is prudent to read the terms of use and understand the parameters before going ahead and using the image.

Finally, there are other alternatives to Google images. Instead of simply turning to “copy and paste”, you could link to the image, take images yourself or purchase images from stock photography platforms like PICHA which provide all relevant licenses giving permission. All these are less risky than using an image without initially confirming whether or not it is protected and if you have permission to do so. 


How to search for free images – https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/29508?hl=en

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