That’s a lovely image you have there; where did you get it?
Oh, that? I found it on Google.
Step back, and listen carefully. You did not find that image on Google.
You may have found it through Google, but you found it on… wherever it is that Google found it.
This is not, contrary to popular belief (namely my dad’s 😉 ) about “precise speech”.
(Even when it is, it’s never really about precise speech; it’s about taking responsibility for what you said and not blaming the other party for misunderstanding when you refused to say what you meant. But I digress.)
It is instead a post about giving credit where credit is due.
It is a post about not making a $7500 mistake by using some random copyrighted image because you “found it on Google” and didn’t take that one extra step to find out if you had the right to use it.
I don’t care whether the events of that article really happened or not. If they did, the owner of that photo, while clearly dishonest, was well within his legal rights, and we should all treat our searches accordingly. (Too bad ethics don’t play a greater role in these decisions.) If these events did not occur, it still illustrates perfectly the problem with just taking whatever image you find “on Google”… and we should still treat our searches just as carefully as if there were real people out there willing to abuse the law to this extent.
The fact is, Google is a search engine. It is not a warehouse for the images you use; it does not own those images. It simply points you to whatever sites it thinks might have what you’re looking for.
It is the card catalog of the internet, the road map to the highways and byways of cyberspace. It is not, itself, the library… and it is certainly not the world.
The only thing Google can be said to “own” is the right to preview those images, so that you can actually see if it’s the one you need before visiting whatever site truly owns them. But you still must go to that other site, to whoever created or owns that particular image, to find out if you’re allowed to use it.
Furthermore, there is the question of identifying where you found it, especially when you use it online.
You say you found it “on Google”… but the only thing on Google is the preview image–usually too small, or too blurry once you blow it up, to be of any real use. You had to visit the image’s actual location to download it.
So it really isn’t any more work to provide the link. You’re on the image’s page anyhow, a simple copy-paste to get the image’s real web address is no more work than saying you found it “on Google.” And since you’re already there, it won’t take that long to find out if you’re allowed to use it, either; those few seconds you’ll save by ignoring this step are not worth the trouble later on.
(I will make a partial exception for sites like deviantArt–if you found the image via Google, it may point you to the actual image and not the page you need to cite, so it requires one single step more than usual to identify who owns it so you can credit it properly. This is, however, a step you should still be taking.)
Try it; trust me, you won’t regret it where it matters.
Find an image you like.
Find out who owns it.
Find out if you’re allowed to use it.
And say it with me….
I did not find that image on Google.
Oh, that image of the policeman up above? I found that on Google.
Just kidding. 😉 It’s on stock image site Pixabay under the CC0 Creative Commons license.
- Moving at the Speed of Creativity | Save YouTube Videos to iPad Camera Roll for Green Screen Compositing (speedofcreativity.org)
- Search In Pics: GoogleBot Costume, Google Maps Peghog & Fancy Google Coffee Maker (searchengineland.com)
- Nigerian Copyright Reform Becomes Less Transparent As Comments Roll In (infojustice.org)
- Google’s hidden party tricks (thinktanklondonblog.com)
- Daily Search Forum Recap: February 5, 2016 (seroundtable.com)
- Week in Pictures (macleans.ca)
- 5 minute legal lesson for indie devs: Employees, contractors, and IP (gamasutra.com)
- BPI urges Google to reform ‘notice and take-down’ procedure (musicweek.com)
- The War on Internet Piracy (nworeport.me)
- Google Questions & Unofficial Answers: “Why does Google’s YouTube seem so biased against ordinary users who upload videos?” (lauren.vortex.com)