Do you steal your photos?

One of the most common areas small businesses fall down on is the images they use on their social media.

When you don’t have the resources to hire a professional photographer for every photo it’s easy to jump on Google and pick the first photo you find.

But did you know that this is stealing?

Images, like music and movies, have usage rights. This means that you either have to own the image or have permission to use it on your website or social media – or face legal repercussions.

It’s also not very nice for a photographer or another company to see their work on your website or social media without being credited. As well as using images they have created and paid for, you may create confusion for customers of both companies and a reputation for yourself as unoriginal.

What happens if I get caught out?

When someone infringes copyright, there are various courses of action that could be taken by the owner of the image, such as:

  • You could be contacted by the owner and asked to remove the image
  • You could be asked to purchase a licence and come to a commercial agreement
  • You could be taken to court to resolve the issue legally.

Obviously, the last thing you want to do is attend a court hearing about copyright infringement. This is usually a last resort and often results in you paying to use the photo as well as any legal costs, and possibly other financial compensation to the images owner.

Further, you could also be asked to permanently remove all copies of the image from your website and social media, unless permission from the copyright owner is secured.

“Deliberate infringement of copyright on a commercial scale may also lead to a criminal prosecution. Even in situations where people may think their copyright infringement will not be detected, they run the risk of being discovered and subsequently being pursued through the courts. ”

So how can I avoid copyright infringement?

The easiest way to avoid using someone else’s images is to take your own. With the advances in technology it has become easy to take photos using a camera phone that are of good enough quality to use on social media.

However, if that isn’t possible, or if you’re looking for something more high-res, you can search online for image labelled for reuse.

This means that the owner of the image has flagged it for use commercially and you can use it without fear of repercussion.

Where can I find images labelled for commercial reuse?

It’s actually really easy to find good, stock images for use on your social media. As well as Google’s advanced search options, there are dedicated websites you can use that are full of high quality images.

Google Images


Google Images has its own advanced search option that lets you search for pictures labelled for commercial reuse.

All you need to do is search for the image you want (I used ‘camera’ above), then click on tools and usage rights.

Make sure you select ‘Labeled for reuse’ if you plan on using the image on a commercial website or social media account.





Unsplash has to be one of my favourite websites.

They are host to hundreds of beautiful hi-res photos that are completely free and can be used commercially.


Similar to Unsplash is a bank of free to use hi-res images that you can use on your organisation’s website or social media accounts.




Pexels also has a wealth of free to use hi-res images that you can take full advantage of.


As well as these free services there are also some paid for sites such as ShutterStockiStock and Adobe Stock.


If you would like more information, the current UK guidance on image copyright law can be found here.


Posted by James Barton

13th Jan 2017

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