The Legalities of Using Images Found Online 1

Image: Natalia Merzlyakova

SINGAPORE, Singapore – In a time when visual content is just as important as text, we turn to the experts to provide us with the dos and don’ts of using using images found online. We spoke to C-u Pinn Koh, Director at Arielle Law Corporation to fill in the gaps and tell us how the big companies are enforcing copyright,

SPH sued Yahoo Asia Pacific in 2013 for reproducing content from SPH’s newspapers without permission. In 2015, SPH sued The Real Singapore for reproducing or substantially reproducing 244 of its newspaper articles without permission.

Besides SPH, Getty Images is also known for going after business owners that use its images without permission. It does so worldwide, and so common that there are articles online that advise website owners on how to respond to the “extortion letter”.

Getting images for use online

Although it is very tempting to just use the first nice image that comes up in a Google search for your marketing needs, that is a method that may get you into trouble. Any reputable business has to be conscious about where it gets its images from to avoid potential embarrassment and legal liability later on.

Here are some alternative ways to find suitable images:

Search on image platforms

On Google Image Search itself, there is an option to filter images by Usage Rights. Flickr is another platform where you can filter images by their licenses. Some images have licenses whereby the images are permitted for commercial use provided there is attribution provided.

Go for indie photography sites

There is this long list of places where you can find images that are free for use for your websites.

Hire someone to create your images

With so many outsourcing sites available, it is no longer expensive to contract someone to create a graphic for you. Sites like this are and

Create your own images

There are now web applications that let you “assemble” your own images for blogs or Facebook posts online, without the need for Photoshop or other heavy-duty image editors. An example is In addition, you can purchase “components” of an image at a low cost, and put them together in your own style. Creative Market is one example of such a marketplace.

As you can see, there are many options for getting your own images. Don’t wait until you receive that demand letter asking for a few thousand dollars before thinking about copyright!


C-u Pinn Koh is a Director at Arielle Law Corporation, a boutique law firm that provides individualised services tailored specifically to your needs.

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