There are lots of image websites that offer creative commons images that people can download and use for free. When it comes to blogging this is fantastic as it avoids infringing on copyright, but what if the image is there illegally?

What if someone uploads a random image that someone else owns the copyright to and they list it as creative commons. People will use this image thinking it is legal to do so. Who is at fault for this and how can people who use creative commons websites avoid getting into trouble if this were to happen?

1 Answer 1


If you use an image, you are responsible for ensuring you have permission to do so

If you want to use it you must make all reasonable efforts to identify the author and either get their permission, determine that the image is public domain, or use it under a fair use/dealing doctrine. You cannot rely on what unidentified third parties say about it.

If you have done this and are unable to determine the author and use it anyway then you are still in breach of copyright.

  • I get that but to focus on the person who "claimed" the image was open source and free to use. Say person X uploads an image to a free image sharing website and says that it is creative commons/free to use. I make the effort to contact this person and they give me explicit confirmation that I can use it. Nothing I can find suggests they are not the copyright owner what more can I do? If you go to a store and buy a watch that later turns out to be stolen, you aren't to blame for this. Apr 4, 2019 at 16:04
  • @DanHastings unlike receiving stolen property, copyright violation is a strict liability offence - how or why or if you know you are doing it is irrelevant - if you do it you’re liable. In strict liability offences the law does not concern itself with the question “what more could I have done” unless due diligence is a defence which it isn’t for copyright. The guy who posted it is also liable to the copyright holder.
    – Dale M
    Apr 4, 2019 at 20:09

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