Attention Bloggers: Using “Free” Images Can Cost You $30,000

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Attention Bloggers Using “Free” Images Can Cost You $30,000

You wake up one morning with an amazing idea for a blog post.

You go to your laptop and start writing.

After 2 hours…

You have an awesome post. Now last thing to do is optimize it for humans. So you go and search for a good image.

And you find an awesome image on Google Images.

You go and do what you normally do, copy the best image and put it on your blog.

After 4 hours…

Sky is blue, grass is green and…….

You get a mail from Getty Images telling that you have to pay them $30,000 for using an unlicensed image.

How would that be?


What is that I hear?

Are you saying, “Yeah, yeah, I will not get sued. I am just a small blogger and they will never know about my blog.”?

Keep that argument on hold and read this first:

Horror Stories, How Bloggers And Small Businesses Got Threatened

Roni Loren got sued for a significant amount of money. She posted her story on her blog.

If you think it happens only in US, see this forum for a story of a Hong Kong based business.

And then this where Getty Images demanded $4000 for 4 images.

Though many people think that this all is just a extortion tactic by Getty Images, it still is a legal threat.

What Can Happen

If you end up in a case related to infringement, you can be fined anywhere from $400 to $30,000. As the US Copyright Law says, one can be fined:

a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just

Now that is a big sum, right?

Even if you prove that you were not aware, minimum fine is $200.

$200 for one image? That’s still too much!

What’s The Solution?

Just keep following things in mind:

  1. Only use images after checking copyright information.
  2. Quoting Roni Loren, Do not assume image is free until and unless it is proven.
  3. Learn about different types of licences.

Different Types Of Licenses

Yes, there are different types of image licenses. Even for free, it is much more complicated than “Creative Commons”.

  1. Stock Sites: Most of the stock sites have their own licenses. So be sure to check out the terms before you buy.
  2. Creative Commons: Creative Commons Licenses are of six types. Learn more about them here: Creative Commons Licenses. Remember that you should be using only Attribution, Attribution – ShareAlike, Attribtion-NoDerivs license types as these are only ones that allow commercial usage
  3. Public Domain: These are images that you can use without any fear of copyright.
  4. Copyleft: Many people are releasing content and images that do not have any copyright limitations. These are safe to use as well.
  5. Others: Be sure to check the license of a website when looking for a image, it may be a different one.

Where To Get Images?

You can get images on stock sites and many free sites as well.

While stock images cost a bit, they are high quality and come without any headaches. Free images are good as well but you need to spend some time to find them.

Here are some sources I have used and recommend:

  1. iStockPhoto [disclosure: affiliate link]: The site is still one of my favourite sources and is not very expensive.
  2. PhotoDune [again, affiliate link]: This is my current favourite. I like the fact that instead of other websites where images are “almost 1 dollar”, they are actually available for $1 here.
  3. Creative Commons Search: This is not a site but a search tool for different image sources.

I’d love to give you a long list, but Wikimedia has a big long list already. Check out their Free Image Sources. was one of the best sources in this list. Give it a try!

How To Get Stock Images For Free

Now, there’s a dirty little way to get stock images for free, at least 5 of them. If you join iStockPhoto and Photodune[both affiliate links], you can get 4 free stock images per month from iStockPhoto and 1 from Photodune.

I use these two sources for buying most of the images and getting 5 extra images per month for a few minutes does not hurt!


  • Check license before you use an image.
  • Always include a copyright link below image. Creative Commons needs this and many stock image sites require this as well.

Do you know of any other resources for free images? Have any questions? Do not forget to comment!

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