Licensing Images For Web Use

An important part of a website are the images. Unless you have your own image library or have money to shoot your own, you will have to source them from an image library. It is important that you understand the different types of licenses so that you aren’t on the end of an expensive copyright claim.


“If I find an image on Google Images, then I can use that image for free.”

This is a common misunderstanding of the purpose of Google Images. It is no more than a search engine for images. All images are copyrighted. It is not a source of free images. If you download an image from Google Images without checking who owns the copyright, you are putting yourself or your business at the risk.

License Types

There are two basic paid license types;

  • Royalty Free
  • Rights Managed

The simple difference is that once you have licensed a Royalty Free image, you can use it as many times in any format without paying any extra license fee.

Whereas for a Rights Managed image, you need to pay for each type of usage. For example, if you license to use on your website, you will need to license again to use it in your printed material.

Free Images

If you do not have the money to license an image, another option is to use a free image. These are generally licensed under a Creative Common (CC) license. CC licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work.

CC licenses are more complicated than regular licenses. Rather than explain them all, it is better that you check the official Creative Common website. Although CC images are free to use, you can still be caught out if you use the image outside of the CC license.

Always Check

No matter where you get your images from, always check that you have the license to use them the way you intend to. Copyright claims can be expensive.

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