Google is the world’s favorite search engine, and it can direct users toward any type of content including great-looking photos, illustrations, design pieces, and more. In fact, there is a separate image search function that shows a lot of different visual entries that match the chosen keywords.

While this type of search may be the first step in the quest to find adequate images to place on your website, for legal reasons it is unlikely to result in great finds. Many of the images discovered in this way may fit the aesthetic criteria for inclusion on the site, but they are intellectual property under legal protection and may not be used without reimbursement, which can sometimes be quite expensive.

Since many website owners are not completely aware of the applicable copyright laws and their full implications, this article will try to provide some guidance in this regard.

Further Reading: Best 15 Website Screenshot Software >

What Are the Rules for Using Images from Google on Your Website?

Ownership of images is valid in the digital space just as much as in the physical world, and image authors retain the right to sell them to the highest bidder or grant free use if they so desire. The fact that an image might already be displayed on the internet doesn’t affect its copyright status and could lead people to falsely believe these images are in the public domain.

The main rule that website owners need to adhere to is that only images that are explicitly permitted to reproduce are safe to use. This is especially true if the website is used for conducting a business, since in this case the copyright infringement could create financial gains, making the transgression more serious and incentivizing the image owners to take action.

Rules for Using Images from Google

Rules for Using Images from Google

Another key factor is the quality of the image. Most pictures you can find on Google are not in full resolution and might not look as impressively if they were enlarged. To avoid displaying pixelated or blurry images on a serious website, it’s highly recommended to check the technical specifications before deciding whether the image is at all suitable for the intended application.

Also Read: How to Use Shutterstock Images for Commercial Purposes >

How to Find Free Images from Google that You Can Use Legally?

Every Google search returns thousands of professionally made images, most of which will end up being unusable in a commercial context. Checking the copyright status of each image individually would be extremely time-consuming and potentially frustrating, with significant potential to make a mistake. That’s why website owners searching for images need to adopt a smarter and more focused approach.

Changing Settings in the Tools Menu

Changing Settings in the Tools Menu

Also Read: How to Legally Use Pinterest Images on Your Website >

Which Guidelines to Follow When Using Google Images on Your Website?

Under the right circumstances, images found through Google search could be a valid choice for your website but this is not a given. Before you decide to put such an image anywhere where it will be visible to website visitors, you need to carefully consider a number of things, from the type and quality of the image to the context in which it will be presented.

Here are some guidelines that could make the decision about Google images less confusing:

FAQs about Putting Images from Google on a Private Site

How can I check whether a certain image from the web is protected by copyright?

Some images carry the signature of the author or a watermark, while in other cases the copyright status is indicated in the metadata. Another way to find out where the image might be coming from is to conduct a reverse Google Image search and see whether there are any identical matches.

Which institutions have the power to sanction unauthorized use of images from the web?

Copyright law is upheld by national courts in practically all jurisdictions, so the image authors could file a complaint in your country of residence. However, Google itself might be even more effective in deterring illegal use of images by threatening to ignore the offending sites in the search results.

Can I use images from Google on my site if I previously modify or combine them?

It is prohibited to use any recognizable part of an image for your needs without explicit permission from its owner, no matter how modified or re-imagined it might be. If you are inspired by an image and would like to make it a part of your creative process, you will still need to get the green light from the author.

Final Considerations

Google is a powerful search engine and can help you discover many gorgeous images, but only a tiny fraction of them could be suitable for free use on your website. It can still serve as the starting point for your research, and the next steps should be to narrow down the choices to images released under a non-restrictive license. While this will dramatically reduce the number of images that you can choose from, it removes the danger of breaking the law by using an image you don’t have the rights to.


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