I want to open a service for people to print portrait images of people they are inspired by. Musicians, scientists, people such as Einstein, Mozart, etc.

What are the legal concerns of using images of Google Images and how can I find images which can be legally used for this purpose?

2 Answers 2


The concern is that any image that you find on the internet is protected by copyright. It is possible that some image is in the public domain, or that it has a license that would allow you to copy such images, but verifying that any such image is "available" is extremely difficult. Depending on the subject, the majority of images of famous people that appear under Google Images are probably not with permission (Google does not host them, they simply collect URLs of images that other people post). If there isn't an explicit license with the image that allows you to download and exploit commercially, you should assume that it is not legal. There are agencies such as Getty Images which have a supply, some of which are hugely expensive to license and some might be affordable (dunno if they have anything for free). There are somewhat better prospects for Mozart, where any painting of him would no longer be protected by copyright. However, the photographs or scans of photographs of the paintings may be protected (museums make money by selling copies of the photographs). Wikimedia is a good source, but they do not guarantee the copyright status of their images. They will give information on usage permission, which may indicate that they have been given permission to make freely available for any use.

  • You've pointed me to an interesting place, Wikimedia. As an example, can I print and sell the image of Elon Musk shared in this Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk? It points to creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 which says I can use it for commercial purposes but I need to give attribution. Does this means I need to print the name of the author on the printout?
    – Guy
    Oct 7, 2016 at 4:59
  • @Guy see this: law.stackexchange.com/questions/17/…
    – user4657
    Oct 7, 2016 at 8:30
  • @Nij that's a good reference, however I could not understand what is a good attribution when printing images on paper as the examples are for digital usage
    – Guy
    Oct 7, 2016 at 11:26

In google click search tools (after you have searched for an image) and then select something with commercial reuse.

  • Very good to know
    – Guy
    Oct 8, 2016 at 5:33

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