How to know if an image is copyrighted

For a few weeks now, you have been working on a poster that you would like to use to advertise your new business. To make it more appealing, you thought it would be a good idea to use images downloaded from the Internet, but you are afraid you won't be able to find any freely usable ones, which are not protected by copyright, so you would like a hand on how to proceed. Well, if you want, I'm here, ready to help you!

In the guide you are about to read, in fact, I will explain to you how to know if an image is copyrighted taking advantage of some practical tricks and, which could always come in handy, how to find content that is reusable for both personal and commercial projects. You will see, succeeding is not at all impossible: you just need to know how to use the means available on the Net in the correct way.

So, what are you doing still standing there? Make yourself comfortable, take all the time you need to concentrate on reading the next paragraphs and, more importantly, try to put into practice the directions I am about to give you. I'm sure that thanks to my "tips" you will have no problem understanding if a content is protected by copyright or not. Good luck!


  • Know if an image is copyrighted
    • Google Images Reverse Search
    • Consult the terms of use on the sites
    • Do a search on sites that sell photos
  • Where to find copyright-free images
    • Google Images
    • Pixabay
    • OpenPhoto
    • FreeStock
    • Unsplash

Know if an image is copyrighted

 know if an image is copyrighted, you must verify that the symbol is present © on the content in question and / or in its caption (usually the name of the person or company that holds the copying rights is also indicated after the symbol). However, images protected by copyright are not always marked by the symbol in question, especially on the Internet, and therefore how can you find out if they can be used for personal and / or commercial purposes or not? Let me give you some "tips" on this.

Google Images Reverse Search

Tracing back to the source from which a photo comes is of fundamental importance to be able to understand if it is protected by copyright or not. How can you find the original author of an image? By trying, for example, to exploit the Google Images reverse search and find out if the photo already appears on some Internet sites.

To use this tool, linked to this page, click on the icon camera present on the right in the search bar and click on the item Upload an image to upload the content of your interest from your computer (if you want, you can also search by pasting the link of a photo taken from the Internet in the text field that appears after clicking on the tab Paste Image URL).

At this point, the service will offer you a series of photos similar to the one you searched for (under the section Visually similar images) and links to web pages that integrate an exact copy of the photo of your interest. Try to locate the website from which the image comes and visit it to make sure it can be freely reused in personal and / or commercial projects, perhaps by consulting the terms of use that are indicated therein, as suggested in the following chapter.

Final report: Google Images does not always manage to trace the source from which an image actually comes, which paradoxically could be claimed as "original" even by multiple platforms, not giving you the opportunity to understand if it is copyright free or not. If you have doubts about the rights to use an image, it is better not to use it to avoid running into problems of any kind. If, on the other hand, you want more information on how to use the reverse search for Google images, consult this dedicated article of mine.

Consult the terms of use on the sites

If you have managed to trace the source from which the image of your interest comes, everything becomes easier, as it will be enough for you consult the terms of use of the site to find out if the content is copyrighted or not.

How can you find and consult the terms of use of a website? Usually it is sufficient to scroll to the bottom of the home page of the same and click on the link User Agreement (in other cases you may find the wording Terms of use o Copyright). On the page that opens, then refer to any prohibitions on the reuse of images and other content on the portal.

If, for example, in the terms of use it is expressly indicated that it is forbidden to reproduce, copy and / or download the images, texts and other contents contained therein, it means that the image of your interest, coming from the site in question , is subject to copyright and cannot be used (unless requested to do so by the owner and obtain a license for use).

Do a search on sites that sell photos

Do a search on sites that sell photos, can be another way of trying to figure out if an image is copyrighted or not. I know, it is quite complex to trace an image in this way, but it costs nothing to try!

To proceed, therefore, connected to the main image sales sites (eg Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, iStockPhoto, etc.), type in the search form of the portals in question the terms that describe the image you intend to use in your projects and passes patiently through the contents that are found to verify the presence of the image of your interest. If the reference portal integrates search by images, such as the one described in the chapter on Google, use it to facilitate your search.

If you can find the image you were looking for on one of the portals that sell photos among those you have consulted, there is no doubt: the image is protected by copyright.

Where to find copyright-free images

If you are reading this part of the guide, you have evidently ascertained that the image you were looking for is actually protected by copyright. If so, don't despair and find out where to find copyright-free images that may still be good for your project.

Google Images

One of the main sites for downloading images for free use is Google Images, which allows you to find photos and illustrations distributed under a Creative Commons license and / or in the public domain, which can be reused for both personal and commercial purposes. To download images without copyright, just connect to the main page of the service and filter the contents according to the preferred usage right.

To proceed, therefore, connected to the Google Images home page, search for the content of your interest via the search bar in the center of the screen and press Submit on the keyboard. Then press the button Research tools (located at the top right) and select the type of image you want to find from the menu Rights of use: Marked for reuse if you intend to find images to be used freely both in personal and commercial projects; Marked for reuse with modifications if you want to identify content that can be freely modified and used in both personal and commercial projects; Marked for non-commercial reuse if you want to find images to reuse only in personal projects or Marked for non-commercial reuse with modifications to find images to customize and reuse for personal projects.

Once you have found the image of your interest, click on its miniature, pigia sul pulsating Consultation and download the image from the website hosting it, by right clicking on it and selecting the item Save image as from the context menu. Simple, right?


Another portal to download non-copyrighted images that I recommend you try is Pixabay. In case you have never heard of it, know that it gives you access to a database that includes millions of photos and illustrations to download and reuse freely both in commercial and personal projects.

To use it, go to its main page and type in search bar located at the top the content of your interest. After performing your search, filter the results that were found by expanding the menu Images and choosing whether to display Gallery, vector images o illustrations. Expanding the menus Orientation, Category, Dimension e ColorInstead, you can further refine your search by selecting the parameters you prefer.

Once you've found the image you like best, click on its miniature, click on the green button Free download located on the right, select the download format you prefer from the drop-down menu that opens and click on the green button Download to start downloading the chosen image.


OpenPhoto, as its name suggests, is another website that allows you to locate and download non-copyrighted images that can be used in personal and even commercial projects. It works in a similar way to the portals I told you about in the previous lines, so you shouldn't have any problems using it.

To start with, connected to the main page of the service and browse the images in its database based on their categories, which are listed in the tab KATEGORIEN of the site (es. Animals, Colors, Flowers, Food, etc.). Alternatively, you can search for images by pressing the tab Search located above and looking for the terms of your interest.

After identifying an image that interests you, click on its miniature to open it and then click the link DOWNLOAD placed under the content in question, so as to start its download: the photo will be opened in a new browser page and you can save it by right clicking on it and selecting the item Save image as give the menu answer.

I remind you that the photos available on OpenPhoto are distributed with various licenses: so always check the possibilities of reuse explained in the section allotment, which is at the bottom of the page where the image is located.


Another resource I highly recommend you consider for downloading copyleft images is FreeStock. In case you have never heard of it, it is a real search engine that offers the possibility of easily identifying images distributed under the Creative Commons Zero license and, therefore, to be reused for both personal and commercial purposes. .

To use it, connected to the main page of LibreStock, type the search terms that correspond to the content you want to locate in the search bar which is located on the left and presses the button Search. If you want, you can also search for content based on most popular tags of the moment: just click on the button (≡) located at the top right and then select one of the categories available from the menu that opens (eg. Business, Nature, Food, computer, Etc.).

Once you've found the image that's right for you, click its miniature and start the download from the site it comes from: usually just press the button download for free present in correspondence with the photo or right click on it and then select the item Save image as from the context menu. Not complicated at all, right?


I conclude this discussion by talking to you about Unsplash, which is another useful portal for downloading stunning images that are usable in both personal projects and commercial purposes. Since it offers a catalog full of very high quality images, I would say to see immediately how it works.

To begin with, connected to its main page by clicking on this link, click on one of the categories listed above (eg. Wallpapers, Nature, Architecture, Animals, etc.) to locate an image of your interest or, if you prefer, search using the search bar located at the top left.

When you have found the image that is right for you, hover the mouse cursor over its preview and then click on the button depicting the freccia rivolta verse il basso, so as to start downloading the content. Easier than that?

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