Google Images doesn’t own images

Google Images is an excellent tool for searching and finding images from across the Internet. Unfortunately for students, the image’s appearance in a search does not authorize its use.

I recently wrote an article titled Photos and Copyright Law in which I advocated for appropriate citation in student projects. One issue with citation has emerged in many of my classes: the citation of Google Images.

One of the most common citations I see on photos in student work (whether online or in print) is “courtesy Google Images.” This citation does not give appropriate credit. It’s similar to simply writing, “I found this on the Internet.” Here’s why:

Google images pulls all images from the web. You can search them, but each image links back to a specific, individual website. The individual website owns the photo – not Google Images. Thus, the citation should go back to the original owner. Before you use one of these images, be sure to consider these tips for using images from the web and these suggestions about how to cite sources in digital media.

I hope that this addendum to my article helps many students learn about proper attribution and citation of images. The key to accurately citing the sources is not only to allow the reader to find your source, but also – and perhaps more importantly – to credit the authors and designers of your information for the work that you found so compelling.

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