Everyone talks about how it is vital to use visual elements on a website to make content more attractive and increase user engagement. You are told that images are very good for SEO and that they help increase time spent on site.
Everything that professionals tell you about using images on your site is true. However, what so many fail to mention is the fact that you can easily end up in a world of trouble if you just randomly use the images you find on Google.
The Common Approach
Most people open a website in minutes. WordPress makes that really simple. Then, they start writing content. They see that featured images are needed and they then use whatever seems nice on Google Images. What they do not know is that they might end up sued in the future because they used an image that was copyrighted.
Is The Image You Find On Google Copyrighted?
Most images that appear in Google Image Search are protected by copyright. It does not matter if there is a copyright symbol on it or not. Most digital images have hidden metadata that proves who the owner is.
You should ALWAYS assume the image you find is copyrighted, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED. You can be sued by the owner when you use an image without his/her permission.
Giving Credit Is Not Enough
Years ago, the common practice was to give credit to the image copyright holder. This was more than enough to make everyone happy. Now, laws changed and it is no longer enough to add that copyright. Countless site owners open the door to lawsuits as they add the images and also a link.
There are industries in which people are really happy to get a link. For instance, many small to medium-sized brands do not worry about the use of one of their images when a link to their website is added since they get more awareness. However, a larger brand might be upset if their product is portrayed in an inappropriate way and has the money needed to sue.
The huge problem at the moment for the copyright owners that want to sue someone is that international laws vary a lot from one country to the next. It is sometimes really hard to sue someone over copyright infringement because this would mean a lawsuit would need to be started in the country of residence of the person that is at fault. This is why you do not see many such lawsuits.
In larger, more-evolved countries, this is not really a problem. In US or UK for instance, it is really easy to sue someone for copyright infringement.
It is very important that you know the copyright laws in your country and that you know what you can do and what you cannot. However, this does not mean you should willingly break the law.
There were cases in which people were sued even for $500. If copyright was broken, the copyright holder CANNOT LOSE THE LAWSUIT. Remember that! It just takes dedication and finances to go through the lawsuit. Many brands and people spend that money to then get it back once the lawsuit is done.
Where Should You Get Website Images?
There are 3 options that are available for you and that are completely safe:
Stock Photo Sites
Commercial stock photo sites manage pictures for photographers and give them money when their images are used. Since you pay the fee, you can be sure that you can use the images for your site. The most popular such sites have a subscription service based on how many images are used in a month. These are quite expensive but they are highly secure.
Some popular stock photo sites you can consider are:
Creative Commons Image Sites
This is just a fancy way of saying free images that can be used however you see fit. There are actually many sites that give you access to completely free images you can use. The downside is that since they are free, more people will use them. This is why you may want to use photo editors to personalize them.
Some of the best creative commons image sites are:
Take Your Very Own Photographs
This is the obvious best choice. If you have a good camera or your smartphone has a good lens, you can easily take some pictures that you can use on your site. You just need to be sure that they are relevant since they are obviously unique.
If you want to, you can even take a photography course to become better.
It has to be added that sometimes there is no other way than to take your very own images. For instance, if you sell products that you create on your site, you have to take the pictures. In this case, they have to be great and you should take a course to be sure that you take them right.
Obviously, if you decide to take your very own photographs, you can have companies protect your images.
You need to be really careful with the images you use. While you can get away with so many things right now, as long as you know the law and you are running a small business or a small personal blog, if business picks up, you are a target. The more successful you are, the more likely someone will want to sue you!
Do not use images you randomly take from Google Images. Be sure the images you use are copyright free or you give the appropriate credit, based on what is required.