Use Images From The Internet Responsibly

Use Internet Images Responsibly

Using images from the Internet in a blog post is as easy as doing a quick Google Image Search.

But how do you know if you can legally or at least responsibly use Internet images online on your blog or on social media?

Is the image copyright protected or not?

Images with watermarks or with a copyright statement embedded into the image are obviously protected and cannot and should never be used.

How to search and find Internet images

But how can you make an informed decision about whether you can copy and use other images on the Internet?

There is an easy answer now with a simple usage check provided by Google Image Search.

Google has tightened up image search for copyrighted work and now provides details about usage rights for images.

Step One. Search for an image

Search for an image as you normally would on Google Image Search.

But then click on the Tools button. A new sub-menu will open. Click on Usage Rights.

internet images


Step Two. Filter your search

As no filter is selected by default, select Labeled For Reuse from the Usage Rights drop-down menu.

When you do this you will notice that the selection of images changes immediately.

This is because all images protected by copyright are removed from your results.

Google Image Filter


Step Three. Select your image

Select the image that you would like to use and you will see the options available for the image along with a selection of similar images.

Up until Google changed its Image Search, it was possible to simply open any image in a new browser tab and copy the image regardless of usage rights.

This is now not possible and is a positive move by Google in an attempt to protect usage rights for the copyright owner.

It is still possible however to do a right-click and copy from this details screen, but I would advise against this.

Google Image Filter 3


Step Four. Check the origin site

The best way to access your selected image is to click on the Site button.

This will take you to the site that holds the image and from there you can make an informed decision about how you can use the image and if you need to add a credit.

public domain image


You can see clearly from the image above that there is a free download offered for this image and that it was listed in Google as Labeled For Reuse.

While it is not shown in the screenshot above, there was a link on the page to a Creative Commons license page. The license details read:

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. 

You can copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Now you can be certain that there is no copyright license and you can use these images legally.


How to create original images

To avoid any possibility at all of the copyright infringement, I recommend using Pixabay for images with CreativeCommons licenses, so no attribution is necessary.

You can also use many other sites that offer free stock images that you can freely use.

Here is a list of 25 websites where you can get royalty-free images.

However, my preferred option is to create unique images whenever it is possible.

I use Canva, which is a free online app for creating images.

It is very easy to use and comes with a large library of free to use stock photos, line drawings, and design elements.

Of course, you can always take your own photos, as well as use screenshots as I have done in this article.

The days of using a search engine and copying images from the Internet without giving any thought to copyright and usage rights are over.

Not only is it lazy and wrong. There is always the possibility that it could land you in legal difficulty.

Always check. Always make sure, and always be responsible when using pictures from the Internet or any other online content.


Further reading: How To Find Free Images For Blogs Plus A Clever Tip For You

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

2 thoughts on “Use Images From The Internet Responsibly

  • April 1, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    I use Dreamstime, which has tens of thousands (maybe more, I’m not sure) images of just about everything. Yes, you have to buy these images, but there are plenty of very cheap ones. I buy up a bundle of credits for about 15 bucks, and that usually lasts me a month of blog images. I never have to worry about getting a takedown notice this way, but it isn’t free.

  • May 12, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Oh no, Derek!!!

    The first thing you must assume is that everything is covered by copyright, just as everything you write is. It doesn’t matter if it is widely used; if you get hit by a DMCA takedown you could find your blog taken down, or worse, at the wrong end of a lawsuit. “At least I checked” is not a legal defence.

    There are two kinds of images you can use.

    Images (or any creative works) are in the Public Domain if they are not covered by copyright. That makes them free to use anyway you wish, including commercially. Since copyright isn’t actually a right, but a state imposed monopoly. copyright terms are different in different parts of the world. You can find out what the copyright terms to determine if the work is in the Public Domain.

    This will give you an idea what is in the Public Domain in the USA:
    — >
    and here’s a list for the whole world:
    — >

    You can also safely use images that have been Licensed To Share, The most common and most widely understood licenses are those published by the non-profit group Creative Commons. Their suite of licenses that allow creators to release their works with as many or as few restrictions as they choose.

    There are growing repositories of images you can use ~ these have public domain images;

    Public Domain Pictures

    Both Wikilmedia Commons
    Internet Archive
    have media with a variety of licenses

    When using Google Image Search or Flickr search, you can use the advanced search functions to search for images with specific licenses.

    Thanks for Morguefile ~ that’s a new one for me.

    I guess I’m about due to write an updated article on this :)


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