We’ve said it before, and will probably say it again: Technology changes EVERTHING! This is especially true in the field of Graphic Design. The growth of personal computers and desktop publishing software made EVERYONE an amateur graphic designer. Now, the internet has become a wealth of knowledge and resources; especially for people looking for photos. This brings us to a VERY important topic: Image Use and Copyright Law.
While most professional graphic designers already know all about this, the constant influx amateur freelance designers are often completely unaware. Here are a few VERY important things to know.
- Google is NOT “Public Access to Free Pictures!”
Google, and other search engines, are exactly what they claim to be: Search Engines.
If something exists on the internet, Google WILL find it. Unless you’re savvy enough to clearly keep your photos offline, or only available to restricted groups of people, Google will catalog and reference every image it finds.
- ALL photographs are owned by SOMEONE.
ALL images are initially owned by their creator, whether it’s a photograph or digital art. The creator is the person who must give permission to use the image. There are exceptions, of course, like those cases where a company or organization has hired an artist or photographer. These images then become the property of those who bought the rights.
Sometimes a photographer will sell the rights with a company that deals with “Stock Photography,” which means they make these images available for public use. Sometimes these images are available for free, but more often they will charge per use or require a subscription to their service. Either way, this becomes a reasonably affordable AND very legal way to have access many images.
- “I didn’t know” and “I’ve done this before” are not valid excuses.
Laws regarding Copyright and Image Usage Rights are just like every other law; not knowing you’re doing something wrong doesn’t make it legal. You certainly don’t want you OR the client who paid you to create something, to suffer the consequences if your choices.
Help is on the way!
As we mentioned, there are a bunch of Stock Photography options available online. Below are just a few that we’ve used for some of our projects:
BUT… if you REALLY think Google is the best option, there’s a way to help find those images which are available to use commercially.
Step 1. Go to Google and search for what you’re looking for (for example “Cool Cars”)
Step 2. Select “Images” (just like you normally would) but this time click that little gear icon on the right, and select Advanced Searches.
Step 3. Under the Advanced Search options, find the “Usage Rights” dropdown, and select the appropriate “free to use” option. If you need images for commercial use, like advertising or marketing, make sure you chose one of the “even commercially” choices.
Step 4. Click the Advanced Search button and you’ll still see several images, but this time they are all images that can be used with permission of their owners. NOTE: You may still need to credit the owner, which will be noted with you click the images you chose.
For more information about Copyright Law, Fair Use, and general Graphic Design ethics, check out this site: ethicsingraphicdesign.org They have a ton of resources and information to help you AND your employer or client.