Let’s continue to talk about images, but this time specifically about image theft…
As you may know, a good website or ebay store design requires the use of good images. You cannot have a good design if you do not have good images. Sorry, it’s not going to happen. So in my earlier years as an ebay store designer I would ask my clients to provide me the images they would like me to use in their project. Some of my clients would ask me to find the product images by searching Google images. Something didn’t feel right about this, but I was new to the “game” and didn’t know the rules. So hesitantly I would find a few products images here and there from well known brands who were obviously eager to sell more of their products. I included them in my new “professional ebay store design”, feeling awkward and unsure. That didn’t last long. I really hate feeling awkward and I do not like the idea that I might be taking something that doesn’t belong to me, even if others say it’s okay. That includes product images found in a Google image search. The most professional, respectable and legally safe arrangement is when the client gets the images directly from their supplier, a professional stock site or their own camera and then passes them on to me, the designer.
What’s wrong with using images found in the search engine results? Nothing’s wrong with using these images IF you have permission from the owner to use them. Are you seeking permission to use those images by the owner or creator of those images? Have you found them in the public domain or did you visit the web page to see if they are giving their permission for you to use them freely? Are they free for commercial use? Many free images are only for personal use and not commercial use. We’ll discuss this more in another lesson regarding the wonderful world of public domain images.
An aggravating experience:
A client of many years who also became a dear friend of mine emailed me one day. Surprised, she asked if I was letting another designer use MY portfolio images in their own projects, selling their own ebay store design services. I said, “WHAT?” and “do you mean to tell me that someone is using my portfolio images as though they were their own?!” She told me how she was looking through a well known site called fiverr.com where artists and entrepreneurs offer their services for hire and there was a “designer” there offering to do ebay store designs while using MY images as though the store designs in the image was work he had accomplished himself.
(the image above was the image he copied/stole from my website, claiming it was his own work)
Ask me how that made me feel? Slightly upset? You bet! These were store designs I had worked on over many weeks… blood, tears, sweet pouring down my face as I struggled to birth these design babies to life… okay, that’s a little over board but really, as a designer one can get attached to their designs as well protective of their clients and the projects they worked on, sort of like a mother over her designer child. And I was rather attached to my portfolio projects and the clients who hired me to produce them.
This was a serious case of image theft. And all he had to do was a Google image search for “ebay store design” and there my really cool project portfolio image appeared.. He copied it, posted it as though it were his own and tried to make a profit from my hard work. It was amazing that my friend stumbled on his advertisement, don’t you think?
Needless to say I reported him and the project was taken down.
So.. Is this lesson only about finding images in Google image search, or is there more to image theft? Oh believe me, there’s more. Let’s review the different ways your images can be stolen. This is not to make you paranoid to such an extent that you do not want to be a designer, nor is it to scare you into putting a watermark on everything you put out there. Watermarks are so ugly in my opinion and only very rarely recommended. However this information is to challenge you to be aware of the vulnerabilities and to use this information for your good and your clients good!
Google image search (and other search engines)
So, now you know people steal images from Google image search (or any search engine search result for that matter). I believe a lot of people steal without really knowing they are stealing because they do not think to question if it’s right or wrong. Many people will feel awkward about it like I did in the beginning but will dismiss the awkward feeling simply because “others are doing it” so it must be socially acceptable. But what does the Father say about taking something that doesn’t belong to you, and that you do not have permission to use?
“Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely…” Leviticus 19:11
The more personal time and money you invest into becoming a designer, artist or even a photographer the more you will see the harm in image theft. It will sting you personally when you find your images on someone else’s website who didn’t have proper permission to use it (as though it were theirs).