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Copyrights for Photographs and Videos on Google

Occasionally a client will find a photograph listed on and ask to have it placed on their website. I mention to them that photographs listed on Google are not owned by Google and are not necessarily free for the taking, as Google lists photographs from websites owned by others. This often surprises them, as they assume that if it is on Google it must be free.

If you click a photograph listed on Google, you will find a larger version of the photograph and a hyperlink for the website along with a notice that reads: “Image may be subject to copyright.” This means that Google does not know if the photograph is copyrighted or not and it is up to you to find out.

How do you find out? Click the hyperlink for the website, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and look for the copyright information. You may find something similar to this, indicating that the photograph is not for the taking: Copyright © YYYY. All Rights Reserved. Or, you might find a notice indicating that the photograph is available for use on private, non-commercial websites, or, that the photograph is available for purchase.

Using a photograph owned by someone else without paying for it is stealing, and as a small business owner you have enough issues to deal with, without adding the bad press of a copyright infringement. Purchasing the rights to royalty free stock photographs, vector based graphics, videos, and music from legitimate websites is easy and affordable. Some images can be purchased for less than $1.00.

YouTube Videos

I met with a prospective client the other day who asked if it was okay to take videos from YouTube and use them on his commercial website. Google owns YouTube, but Google does not own the videos listed on YouTube. (Have you noticed that Google is slowly taking over the world?)

So how do I answer his question?

Yes, YouTube does provide html embed coding so it is possible to post a video on another website when appropriate. An embedded video includes a link back to the owner’s YouTube account and the owner of the video keeps the rights to the video. However, this person wanted to take many videos and market them as his own work on his commercial website, which would be a copyright infringement. Look here for more information regarding copyrights on YouTube and United States Copyright Office for more information on copyright FAQ’s.

Still Not Sure?

If it is unclear if a photo or video is protected by a copyright or not, do yourself a favor and assume it isn’t. Then visit these legitimate websites that offer royalty free stock photographs, vector based graphics, videos, and music for purchase:

Posted on February 27, 2013 | Permalink | Join email list

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