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'Free' Media Images Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars

by Andy Kelley  |  
December 17, 2015
  |  1,963 views

If you create content for the digital arena, you understand that it's a visual medium. You want high-quality images to accompany whatever you create, post, tweet, or share. But even if a quick Google search yields the most perfect image that you could imagine for your post, don't use it.

One wrong copy-and-paste image slapped onto something you create, whether for yourself or clients, could cost you big time.

Don't trust that Internet offer of free images

Your Google search for an image may yield banner headlines that promise royalty-free images yours for the taking. But the truth is that it's not Google's responsibility to ensure the accuracy of those claims. It's yours.

Moreover, if you choose to use an image irresponsibly, you and the clients you serve could wind up in a whole lot of hot water.


The image rule you should follow is simple. If you didn't create the image or purchase it from a reliable source that holds the legal right to distribute it such as Getty Images, do not use it! It's really that simple.

If it's created, it's copyrighted

Copyright law and its power over material on the Internet may still be evolving, but one aspect is crystal clear... The copyright holder has more rights than you do.


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Andy Kelley is founder and president of Effective Student Marketing, a national digital marketing firm specializing in higher education.

LinkedIn: Andy Kelley 

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  • by Shagginj Thu Dec 17, 2015 via mobile

    I can attest to this being true. I was using an image as a place holder in our webpage for 1 month. I pulled it when I had our own pics, but Getty saw it first. 1 month cost our business $400, and they would not negotiate. Lesson learned!

  • by kalyug Thu Dec 31, 2015 via android

    this seems like you are selling a source where image are sold.

    i think crediting source is nothing wrong.

    and one can refer to Cretive Commons Licence where anyone can have many option for image use.

  • by Alicia C. Fri Jan 8, 2016 via web

    Something in the tone of this article is off-putting. So much so that I'm thinking about the tone more than the message.

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