You are here
Home > Blogger Resources > Blogging 101 > Using Google Images: Copyrights & Google Images is NOT Public Domain

Using Google Images: Copyrights & Google Images is NOT Public Domain

Things That Make Me Say Huh


Using Google Images Copyrights

Google Images HAVE Copyrights. 

Google Images is NOT Public Domain!

I’ll probably definitely be discussing this issue much more in depth sometime in the immediate future, but I just have to get it off my chest today. Since I’ve been meaning to start a new segment where I basically discuss things that I find disturbing, pet peeves, or simply ridiculous things people do — why not start off with something that has been irritating me for a LONG time: Why people think that they do NOT need to ask permission while using Google Images.




Google recently made some great asinine alterations to the way results are displayed from their ‘Images’ software. Whereas smaller thumbnails used to be displayed, users are now seeing (practically) full sized images. Apparently this small change made for massive alterations in how people interpret copyrights.-

I talked about image theft and how to find stolen images back in September 2012 after much frustration once I found out my images were ALL OVER the Internet. I’ve never given permission for anyone to use ANY of my graphic or photographs, so there’s no question about where my images can and should be used — [ONLY!]

Changing the search result of an image from small to large creates misinterpretation of the law and creative rights.

Search results had delivered thumbnails in the past, which demanded the user to click thru for a full size image, which would send them to the original source. Instead, Google Image users can now right-click and save without being sent to the source. This means that people believe that they apparently automatically own their search results. That’s like saying I can read an RSS Feed article for and copy-paste into my blog. Why NOT? It is the same thing, right? I found someone else’s creative property located somewhere besides their original website and claimed it to be mine.

Just because you know how to right-click and save a graphic does not mean you can use it. It might seem petty and maybe it’s just a silly clipart image. Surely no one will care/notice/find out, right? That’s where you are wrong. The Internet is large, vast, and filled with an infinite amount of information. However, I always feel like we’re truly connected by just a few degrees.

TechyDad discusses copyrights and Google with a really upsetting tale of ripped off pictures, which goes to show you never know who is watching, finding, and knows too well that you are not the original owner of an image.

I’ll let TechyDad tell you the story about how Cora died in her mother’s arms when she was only 5 days old. Cora’s mom, Kristine, has worked to help raise awareness for congenital heart disease.In return for her efforts and hard work, photographs of her deceased daughter were ripped off by someone sharing stories of babies who died of child abuse — and decided to use pictures of baby Cora without her mothers permission. * Head on over to TechyDad to learn more about Cora’s Story and hear what he has to say about the issue of using Google Images and copyrights.

The most expensive photograph in the world, Andreas Gursky’s Rhine II, recently sold at Christies auction house in New York City for a cool $4.3m. Hey! I have an idea. Why don’t I conduct a Google Image search for "expensive photographs" and decide that I am the new owner of all results?! There’s gotta be millions in those search results. I have a feeling I would hear from a handful of attorneys and photographers within the first 12-hours after publishing a post full of those images!

You can’t walk around thinking you are entitled to anything you find on the Internet. It just doesn’t work with at way.

I normally scour the Internet every 2-weeks on a stolen images scavenger hunt. The results of my findings are disturbing and annoy the heck out of me. I spend a lot of time and put tons of effort into my blog in order to maintain a level of originality and uniqueness. FInding another blogger ripping off your images feels like a stab in the back. How DARE you knowingly use a graphic that you didn’t invest any effort into designing. 

I always contact the thieves in a variety of methods as I am able to find on their blog. I will reach out through whatever avenues are displayed: email, Facebook, Tweeting and/or leaving a comment on the blog post where my stolen image is located. I allow the blogger 48-hours for removal before further action is taken, which may include a DMCA takedown notice sent to their web host, or having my lawyer draft up a letter (depends on the magnitude of the theft) — but I will do everything else that I possibly can before we reach that point.

The #1 MOST ripped off image of mine is THIS:

Blogging 101 - Tips, How To Blog, Advice

Let’s just think about WHO would steal this image.

What might they be doing that such a graphic would be needed for their blog post? 

Blogging tutorial, right!

I would say there have been about 70-80 instances in which I have located this graphic on a site other than MamaNYC. It’s always hilarious because the content of their posts is always about how to blog: "… you should always create unique, original content for your readers.".. but you are using a stolen graphic? Hmm.

The greatest post that displayed my stolen graphic actually talked about how you should never EVER steal graphics: ".. if you didn’t pay for the graphic, create the graphic, or find it on a website that specifically states the clipart and images are free – do not include them in your post! Images from Google Images are NOT free and should always be checked for copyright. I always ask for permission before using an image found on Google". What a lie… 

One of the bloggers that I contacted earlier this month and demanded removal of my image sent back a fairly ridiculous response (name and identity changed to protect the criminal from an abundance of emails saying "HUH?" from my loyal and knowledgeable readers)–> 

"I have no problem removing the image, but just for your information, this image appears on Google image search which means that there are no copyrights for it…

There was no intention on my part to violate any copyrights issues, I just found this image in my search and had no idea that it is part of your corporate identity.

Have a magical day!" 

There are so many things wrong with these two sentences (I’m not even going to count the ‘magical day’ remark as a sentence.}. The fact that someone thinks that all copyrights terminate just because an image pops up on Google Images is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe how many people still believe that the Internet means all ownership and rights are thrown out the window! 

I wrote back to the image thief suggesting he not only educate himself, but also start assuming the exact opposite of Google Images. You should be assuming and train yourself to believe EVERY single image and piece of content that you find on the Internet IS copyrighted.

Instead of thinking that everything you find on Google Images is YOURS to use –>

… I would start thinking about how I can use my detective skills to investigate 

and figure out WHO owns it, IF I can use it, and WHERE I can get permission. 

Another good question to ask anyone that thinks Google Images means free reign to use what they want: Why does Google have a Copyright Free Image Search Engine if the results on their Google Images tool already displays results have no copyrights? That doesn’t make much sense, right?!


 I do NOT have permission when using Google Images without :

…. clear statement of the image being public domain (free),

….. permission from the image owner/creator [*see below!]

….. receipt showing payment for the image on a royalty free site.

*Permission from image owner/creator: When you find an image that you would like to use on your website and start composing an email to the blogger that is using the graphic – be clear in your email and investigate ownership. Ask if she is the original owner and has the ability to even GIVE permission. Do your homework NOW and avoid trouble with copyright violations and DMCA takedown notices later!

Robyn Fizz over at MIT News [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] has a few great things to say about Google Images and usage rights: 

"…if you think that images displayed through a Google Image search are all openly available for reuse, think again.

Google doesn’t own the images it displays in search results. It indexes the images and brings them to your screen at low resolution, under a fair use principle that’s been supported in the courts. The argument is that the display of thumbnail-sized, low-resolution images does not affect copyright holders’ ability to market their images…..

Although the print is small, images from a Google search usually come with this caveat: Image may be subject to copyright."

*Read more @ Find images to use while keeping on the right side of copyright 

When MIT News columnist, Robyn Fizz, says the print is small – she means SMALL! Google really used the smallest and most difficult to read font size and color when they decided to include a warning about how the images displayed on their Google Image results page COULD be subject to copyright. 

How SMALL is the small print that says "image may be subject to copyright"?


Not THIS small.

More like THIS small.

… with this font and background color.

After a quick Google Images search for my Blogging 101 image, I decided to take a screenshot so that you can see that it really is very small and difficult to see (Gray on gray text — like this.)

blogging 101 google images

Do you see it? Its right there! ^ Open your eyes… Sheesh!

There are plenty of resources out there that’ll help you clear up any confusion and answer questions you might have about copyrights for images found on Google Images. talks about using Google Images with the exact same idea I’ve reiterated time and time again: "Assume that Online Content is Protected by Copyright".  They’ve also provided a very useful guide for advice on how to obtain copyright permissions for digital and online content



I can go on and on… so I’ll just wrap it up here with a tip on how you CAN actually find free public domain images… through Google Images, too!

⇒ Copyright Free Image Search Engine

⇒ Google Advanced Image Search

*Scroll to the bottom and select the last option, "usage rights". You can read more about how to find reusable images using Advanced Image Search on Google, too.

Using Google Images Usage Rights

⇒ Wikipedia Public Domain Images Resources [very long list! great resource!]

⇒ Stock Xchange [free stock photos]

⇒ morgueFile [free photos; some may require linkback]

⇒ Dreamstime [free and paid images]

⇒ Icon Archive [love this site! lots of icons!]


lets discuss talk blog

I want to know where you stood — and where you now stand on the Google Images ownership/usage/copyright debate. Has my post changed your mind, or will you go about your business and use Google Images to find graphics for your next blog post without asking permission from the owner?

This poll [below] is completely anonymous, but I would also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. It is perfectly acceptable and okay if you didn’t KNOW the rules yesterday, but all I hope is that today you are starting to see things differently. If you’ve started to see the reasons why you should not use your image results without permission from the original owner, I applaud you [loudly].

[yop_poll id=”2″]




My name is Nicole Napolitano and I am a full-time professional parenting blogger and work-at-home mom of two adorable and vivacious children (boy - 6 & girl - 2.5). I decided to develop MamaNYC in 2010 shortly (1-month) after transitioning from work-a-holic Internet marketing pro to the shoes of a stay-at-home mom (bored!). As a dedicated business manager for over 9-years, I was determined and positive that I would once again be a successful business woman -- whether or not I had a diaper bag tagging along! I am a New York City native, but relocated with my husband and our two kids to sunny Los Angeles in the summer of 2014. Leaving everything behind was scary, but it's time to make new memories. My interests include web design, Internet marketing, product development and research, SEO, movies, friends, and spending time with my family.

12 thoughts on “Using Google Images: Copyrights & Google Images is NOT Public Domain

  1. That sounds like a really annoying thing to have to deal with! That reply letter was fairly hilarious, though. 😛

  2. I am a wannabe blogger and this would something I would think would be common knowledge. Photos and art are, well, ART! Owned by the originator. But then, I do have kids who use photos for class reports but not for anything they write about to MAKE a profit from. I’d think they would be teaching this in schools?

    Photography to me is very personal. Some are so gifted at it and like to share, others make their living at this and of course do not want to have it “stolen” or used, much like music gets royalties from downloads. I am not good at it, but would be offended if someone just borrowed or took credit for it when not their work.

    I am not a huge Pinterest person either but thought of this right away when the photo social medias have gone rampant. I want others to know if I have taken a photo of personal nature (like family) or something that might be worthy of a high mark. Call me callous but I want credit! Words are stolen and called plagiarism. The rest of what appears online should just follow suit I would think.

  3. Thank you for addressing this! I’m saddened by the amount of people out there that steal images and content. It’s so frustrating and it’s really upsetting when you work really hard at something just to have someone else steal it and call it their own.

  4. Thank you for this post.
    This is something that we can never say enough. Photographers and designers are artists and the need to eat! There are many royalty free image bank where you can buy cheap images, vectors or videos.

  5. That’s interesting. I didn’t realize that the changes to google images would change the way people thought of the images.

  6. I recently had someone steal images from one of my craft tutorials and post them on Facebook as advertising for their craft store. She got extremely irate when I informed her that she needed to remove my images or I would report her to Facebook. She kept arguing that anything on google images was fair game. If she hadn’t banned me from her facebook page I would send her the link to this post 🙂 Well said!

  7. I agree that its just ridiculous that someone can left click copy and paste anything they want anywhere..i get tits the internet and it must be difficult to manage the god knows how many people who use it but something needs to be done because theft is theft whatever format its used in.

  8. I am glad that you posted this information. So many people either don’t careor don’t realize that they are actually stealing items from a site.

    1. It’s been bothering me lately, especially since the issue hits SO close to home. Even if I get the attention of ONE person that’ll stop using images without permission, I can sleep better at night! I think the Internet is still so new that people don’t quite understand that copyright laws STILL exist — paper, digital, music formats, artwork, photography… whatever the medium – we still have to protect our creative rights and respect others, too.

      Thanks, Jo-Ann! :0)

Leave a Reply