How to not get sued – using images online

Image copyright online

Van Gogh had many problems but social media copyright wasn’t one of them.

Ooh, the internet is a colourful place. Brightly coloured gems, products pics, beautiful photography, funny illustrations, videos, infographics, silly memes – everywhere we look, images rule! How many times have I got lost in Pinterest as I’ve skipped from one tantalising image to another beautifully presented product. I want, I want, I want!!! (calm down Katherine)

Of course, we want our businesses to stand out amongst all this wealth of visual content and take advantage of our natural urge to love pictures. And with all these images surrounding us, it is very easy to pluck something beautiful from the ether and reuse it for ourselves. Copy, paste, save and reuse. It takes seconds.

But everything we see on the internet has been created by somebody. Some of it has been given freely for anybody to use, but some of it (most of it) has not. Some of it represents years of practice for the artist or the photographer, some of it was commissioned for a specific purpose for editorial or product placement and some of it was just for fun but still has a value for its creator.

It can seem like a minefield. All we want as business owners is to tap into the power of images to strengthen our brand / get more sales / make a really helpful and insightful point to our customers / or entertain. We don’t mean to steal and undervalue the hard work of the artist, it’s just hard to remember that everything belongs to somebody when copy/paste is SO easy to use.

Unfortunately the ‘I didn’t know’ argument isn’t going to work when the creator comes knocking at your door with a nasty lawyers letter for copyright theft. Best avoided!

Image copyright online

But how will they know?

They have the technology. Some images are fingerprinted so it can be tracked and identified if it doesn’t have a license. Even if you have only used a part of it. Even if it has been changed, cropped, coloured and used as part of another image.

But (yes, there is good news) there are LOADS of great images out there for FREE, for you and me to use without worrying that they belong to somebody else. And loads of great images to use FOR FREE that only require a quick thank you and signature from the original creator to boost both of your businesses. Let’s share the love!

I’ve put together an easy list of how to pick fantastic images for your business for free and use them with no worries about getting sued somewhere down the line…

  1. Public Domain Images

There are some great websites that list free to use images that you can use for any project and in most cases you don’t need to offer attribution (always check the terms of the website). and will allow you to search for relevant images and tell you where and how you can use the image. Other websites such as or upload high quality images every month with no strings attached.

  1. Creative Commons

People love to share and show off their photographic skills online and just because these images weren’t taken by a professional, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some gems out there.

Websites like Flickr (my fav) and Tumblr allow users to upload their photos and specify how it can be shared on the web, through a creative commons licence. Some choose non-commercial, some with attribution and a link, some with no derivatives (no fiddling with the image).

You can easily search by the right creative commons license (free to use commercially) through search websites like Just make sure you attribute the original creator every time you use the image and you are good to go. Yay!

  1. Buy royalty free stock photos

There are loads of very good value royalty free stock websites out there,, , that will charge you anything between £1 to £25 an image. If you find the perfect pic, it’s worth it. That picture could be the difference between somebody pressing the BUY button or not. Royalty free pictures are basically yours to use as many times as you want for whatever you want (make sure to check the license when you buy though!).

  1. Take your own pictures

Just take your mobile and click away. A picture of your coffee cup might be just right for a FB post. Social media particularly is all about building relationships so home-grown pics will be more personal and speak directly to your audience. Share yourself and magical things may just happen.


Did you find this helpful? This month the Be Your Business Beautician Club is all about picking and using the right images in your branding to get more sales and boost your biz. Find out more here >>>


1 Comment

  1. Sara

    This is really useful. Thanks. I was just thinking about this the other day when I wanted a image of Winnie the Pooh for a blog post. It’s something to keep in mind when as you say, it is so easy to copy and paste.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…

3 ways to boost your sales page

3 ways to boost your sales page

Do you wake up in the morning and get that horrible sinking feeling? You nervously check your phone to see you yet again made no sales and your heart just sinks. All that work on your offer and money driving people to your sales page and nothing... or not nearly as...

5 powerful visual content tricks to boost your coaching biz

5 powerful visual content tricks to boost your coaching biz

It’s a noisy world out there. Everybody is trying to produce content, get noticed and drive sales. Facebook is getting busier, Pinterest is chock full of stunning, fascinating and well-groomed pics, Instagram is getting clever with carefully designed images straight...