That’s a direct quote from my daughter several years ago and a statement which grows ever more true. For example, how many times a day do you google something? And when did google become a verb, anyway? (If you must know, it was added to the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries in 2006. Yes, I googled it.)
The fact of the matter is that we turn to the internet constantly to search, shop, share and stay informed. Let’s take a closer look at that first activity — search. Say you need an image of an office environment for the company newsletter, so you search for it and get thousands of results. You pick one, ignoring that little phrase, “Images may be subject to copyright,” add it to your newsletter, and move on the next task.
Hold on, two problems with that scenario…
Just because an image comes up in an internet search doesn’t mean it’s free to use. That little phrase, “Images may be subject to copyright,” is there for a reason. Copyright ownership gives the owner an exclusive right to use the image, so you need to track down the source of the image and request permission to use it. Of course, that’s not always easy or practical.
A great alternative is to purchase stock photos or illustrations that are licensed for commercial use. Many sites exist now where you can find quality images at an affordable price, so you won’t have to worry about copyright infringement. You may even be able to find what you need on reputable sites that offer free images for commercial use, such as Pixabay and Unsplash. Or hire a professional photographer for a custom solution.
The second problem with using search-result images is that they typically do not have enough resolution for print-quality reproduction. When an image is used online, best practice is for it to be sized as small as possible, i.e. low resolution, so the site will load quickly. Images in print documents need more resolution to reproduce well. So that little picture from a website is not going to work as a full-page photo in the company newsletter. Stock photos are usually available in several sizes, which allows you to purchase the size that’s right for your project.
While we may often move through life with the perspective that “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” (courtesy of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper), using images from an internet search is an exception to that idea. Do the right thing and get permission or purchase images if you are using them commercially. Let me know if I can help.