Image Rights? What’s that?


When you’re building a new site, where do you get your images and graphics from? Do you just search the internet for images using keywords to find what you’re looking for, and then upload them to your website and embed them? If you do, you run the risk of getting nasty letters from image rights holders like Getty Images, demanding over a thousand dollars for the use of a single thumbnail size image. Don’t believe me? Google it. It’s true. It’s been happening for a long time.

Image rights are a tricky business with web design. I obtained a template from a designer who distributed it without mentioning that none of the images could be used in a project. In other words, he was distributing a template saying it was free to use for any project, but didn’t mention that template included images that required purchasing from image rights holders before they could be used. It didn’t go well, but it could have been a lot worse. In the end the developer went and changed the wording on his site to notify users of his templates to that effect, but that example highlights the point that you cannot use graphics on your website or in your applications if you don’t know where they came from and what rights you have to the image.

public-domain-logo-slightly-nicerWhere can you find good, inexpensive graphics and images? The most inexpensive places to look are public domain graphics websites, such as,,, and There are many more, especially if you’re looking for something more common such as low quality images of everyday objects. There are a ton of sites out there with such images, but they’re not always very high quality or high resolution, which is important in design work. If you can’t find what you need easily, or you need something extremely specific, try You’ll find high quality images, and at very reasonable prices most of the time.

If you’re tempted to just scour the internet and use what you find, remember it’s less costly to pay $15 for several images to an image rights holder than risk getting a letter demanding thousands of dollars in restitution for the use of a few images you weren’t supposed to use in the first place. And yes, many people do it, and seem to get away with it, but it’s your business, your business’ assets, and your business reputation on the line when it comes to your website, and you don’t want to lose it all to a lawsuit or a settlement over a few images.

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