Many people are confused by the term “labeled for reuse“. They’ve probably encountered it in its most common form as a Google Images filtering option:
According to this Google support page, “When you do a Google Search, you can filter your results to find images, videos, or text that you have permission to use. To do this, use an Advanced Search filter called “usage rights” that lets you know when you can use, share, or modify something you find online.”
At the time of this writing, these are the filtering options that are available:
- Not Filtered By License
- Labeled for reuse with modification
- Labeled for reuse
- Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification
- Labeled for noncommercial reuse
What Do They Mean?
CNET provides a summary of the different “reuse” use cases: “The “labeled for reuse” option allows you to use the image for non-commercial purposes as specified in the license. The “labeled for commercial reuse” lets you use the image commercially. The “reuse with modification” option grants you the ability to alter the image.”
However, just because you find a “Labeled for reuse” image in Google Images, it doesn’t mean you have ‘license’ to use it.
According to StockPhotoSecrets, “Google does not offer “licenses”, it just filters images by the “labels” it claims to have found along with the image. This is far away from giving the actual right to use the images but could (and likely will) confuse the users. In fact, the resulting images partly do not offer the rights the user might assume.”
Google is making its best guess about the license status of the image, but to be sure you need to click through to the actual website providing the image to determine if it’s actually public domain.
Yes, you can get into trouble if you use imagery you don’t have a license to use. Maybe you only get an email from the image owner asking you to remove the image, or perhaps just provide credit.
But it can get much worse.
According to KelleyKeller.com, Getty is apparently pretty litigious when it comes to image licensing disputes.
The site says that: “Using its automated software (which ramped up in 2011 after Getty Images acquired PicScout for $20 million), images that appear to have been used without the publisher paying for the appropriate licenses are flagged, and the publisher is sent what has come to be known as the “Getty Images Demand Letter” or the “Getty Extortion Letter.””
This “extortion letter” requests monetary reimbursement. Using images without a license could end up being an exceedingly pricey mistake.
I run a bunch of different websites. One strategy I use, particularly if DepositPhotos (which is where the featured image of this post at the top comes from) doesn’t have the image I’m looking for, is to embed directly from social media.
For example, if I need an NBA image to spice up my content, I’ll find something from Instagram, like this:
If you paste the “https” URL into WordPress, it embeds pretty nicely. You can do the same with Twitter, Reddit, and even Pinterest, though it takes a bit more work to get Pinterest embeds to function, in my experience.
Buying Photo Licenses
It can be expensive to purchase a subscription to a stock photo website, depending on your niche.
For example, one of my sites is in the tech niche and DepositPhotos has a plethora of computer, internet and technology-related images that make my site look professional. It’s an affordable, premium stock photo website.
Plus, if you sign up on their website they often run bulk discounts- you could purchase 100 credits, for example, at a discounted price. I’ve purchased several of those when they were offered and the imagery is available for me should I need it.
On the other hand, if you are in a niche where you need images of celebrities, DepositPhotos doesn’t have a lot of that content. Getty does have great celebrity images but it’s prohibitively expensive for solopreneur publishers.
As I mentioned above, you can use embeds from social media platforms if you are in a niche with expensive photo licensing, but the embeds are a little bit riskier because they can be deleted from the user’s account, for example.
And then you’re left with a blank space and you may never know about it, especially if you have a large website.
Oftentimes, you can rely on free image sites for website photos if your niche isn’t too discriminating.
Going back to my technology site, I can often find a great royalty free image to use from a site like Pexels.com and not have to use up image credits in DepositPhotos.
The bottom line here is that Google Images provide some handy filtering capabilities, but you shouldn’t trust their licensing claims implicitly.
You will always want to verify that the image is actually owned by the website and that they have authority to license its use.
Google isn’t able to tell which images are copyrighted.
They make best efforts and do a pretty good job distinguishing between Creative Commons and copyrighted imagery. But it’s your responsibility to verify the ownership and usage rights of the pictures that appear in Google Images.