Is it OK to copy images or photos from the internet?

Quick answer: NO! Do not copy images or photos

Is it OK to copy images or photos from the internet?I was having a conversation with a chap this week who told me for his previous job on a magazine he was told to simply copy images or photos from the internet.

I was flabbergasted, as this is not only illegal and a very bad practice, but the owner of the website with the stolen images appearing on it can be sued for extraordinary amounts of money.

After I explained all the ins and outs of why he should never do this again, it made me think about an episode which happened to me – related to silk painting – and I thought I’d share it with you. A couple of years ago I was doing a quick Google search for my OWN images as there was one I couldn’t find on my computer. I’m used to doing this, and as I ran my mouse across a bunch of my photos, I was surprised to see that one image wasn’t NAMED the way I always name mine. So – I clicked on it.

I was taken to a very professional-looking website and was absolutely SHOCKED to see my image being used – to sell a silk painting class – by someone I did not know!!!

I immediately jumped into action and followed my own Checklist of what I do if anything like this happens, and luckily for me the results were good. Here is the very quick professional response from the owner of the website:

Copy images or photos? Don't do it! You might have to pay thousands of dollars in fines

I praise the website owner for acting on this immediately, and for writing a clear and concise apology, for which I was grateful, as well as responding to emails when I discovered what had happened. I replied as follows:

Copy images or photos - response by Teena Hughes

This was a few years ago, but there’s not a week goes by when I don’t hear about someone’s photos or text or content being ‘plagiarised’, ‘stolen’ or ‘re-used’. And with that comes the details of how many of thousands of dollars an unsuspecting website owner has been fined – so be aware.

Please note that if you find yourself in a similar situation and need to contact a website owner of other person, please act professionally and courteously, then it’ll be possible you’ll be treated the same way.

Conclusion on whether to copy images or photos

I’m not saying “Don’t put photos online!”, I’m saying this is the 21st Century and every man (woman) and his dog has a phone (or other device) with a camera as they go about their daily life away from the computer, and ON the computer it’s even easier. If you’re worried about copyright, don’t ever publish anything – anywhere – if you’re in fear of it being stolen.

And please don’t think this is an ‘internet’ problem – it’s not – it’s been around since the dawn of time (well, as soon as cavemen and women started designing their outfits). It’s US who need to be clever, add watermarks our photos, or only publish ones you don’t care so much about. There are plenty of great articles online about protecting the copyright of artists – I suggest you consider all of this, grab a cup of tea or coffee, and do some research. Some links you might find interesting:

A question I’m often asked is, “Has it happened again?” – and my answer is, “Yes, it has, and I’ve dealt with that situation in the same courteous way, with excellent results.”

If you’re interested to know how I deal with this type of plagiarism, feel free to contact me – if there is enough interest, I will host a webinar – let me know below – thanks in advance!


Today I visited the site for the first time to see what all the noise was about, did a quick search for ‘silk painting’, ‘handpainted silk’ and ‘hand painted silk’. Gee – what do you think I found? Yes, a photo of one of my handpainted silk cushion covers had been copied to someone’s computer and uploaded as their own. I jumped into ‘copyright infringement’ mode and found the right place on Pinterest to report the infringement. Unfortunately the onus (responsibility) is on the OWNER of the copyright to provide evidence (seems there’s no way to STOP the theft of internet images), so I did what was required:

  • added two links to pages where my original designs are (my site and Etsy)
  • provided the link for my image on the Pintarest site
  • provided all my contact details
  • and sent of the DMCA form.

I didn’t know what to expect, how long it might take, so you can imagine my surprise and glee when about 30 minutes later I got a notification saying my image had been REMOVED. Yayyyyy! The system worked!

Have you ever wanted to copy images or photos, or did you find someone else had used yours? How did you feel about that? Please feel free to post a comment below.