I can’t tell you how many clients to whom I have had to explain the realities of copyright and “fair use.”
The simple version is this: Just because you found it on Google Images does NOT mean that it is free for ANY use.
Sadly, too many people think it’s perfectly OK to use someone else’s images without permission.
When I include photos (from the client or from a stock photography company) in the websites I create, the client pays for the use of the stock photos, or took the photos themselves. If a professional photographer took the photos, then the client MUST have permission from that photographer to use the photos. And, if the photographer uses models in their photos, THEY must have permission from the models (or other people in the photo) to publish said photos (except in the case of journalistic photos, which is an entirely different sphere of copyright law).
When doing things like my #Drawlloween work, I either use photos that have been shared with a universal permission, or photos that I have specifically requested permission (and received it) from the owner of the photo. Technically, since it is NOT being sold commercially, nor is it being used for advertising or any other commercial use, it can be considered “fair use.” HOWEVER, I prefer to err on the side of ethics, and request that permission anyways. And, I also give links to the originators of the photos I use, so that I am giving credit where it is due.
There is NO EXCUSE for any professional designer (whether traditional graphic design or digital design) to use a photo gleaned from Google Images (or any OTHER form of image search on the Internet) in their work. Just like any other art form, the original creator of said work has intellectual property rights to their work.
Adding it to your own work doesn’t grant you intellectual property rights, it simply labels you as a thief.
And sadly, people get away with it because many of the original creators either don’t have the money to sue the thieves, or are completely unaware that their copyright is being infringed.
People say, “So what? Who is it really hurting?” Let me tell you who it is hurting – the originator of the work.
If I create something from scratch, and want to share it with others, if I post it WITHOUT a copyright mark on the image (preferably done in a way that makes it nearly impossible to use the image without destroying it), then some unethical idiot can come around and print out my work, and claim it for their own. I make no money off what they are doing, AND it means that if I attempt to sell MY work, I can’t price it at what it’s worth, because other “copies” are available elsewhere. Why would someone buy it if they can get it for free?
Yes, standing up and insisting on my untarnished integrity can cost me money too. If some client insists on using photos that they do NOT own, and that they DO NOT have permission to use, I will NOT work with that client. And if some client does so without my knowledge, I make damned sure it is in my contract that I am NOT liable for their choices, and that if sued for copyright infringement, the CLIENT is responsible.
My self-respect is worth more than the money I could make from being an unethical asshole.