Is it legal to download images from Google for just storing them (no commercial use and no distribution)? I just want to save back up copies of an image I found onto multiple hard drives and have no intention to profit or distribute the files. Is what I am describing legal?

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    I image google searching led you to the images but are you down loading from google or from websites merely located by google? Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 22:51

1 Answer 1


Yes and no. Some image have permission, some do not (one can infer from this Google page). Here is another Google page that talks about how you can find out, for a particular image. This non-Google site is more willing to give a direct answer: "You cannot download or use images from Google without seeking permission from the copyright holder, unless your use falls within one of the exceptions or the work is distributed under an open licence such as Creative Commons".

There is a legal alternative, an archive copy AKA the Wayback Machine (that is what archive.org is about). Its function is to save a copy of web pages that might become unavailable for some reason. 17 USC 108 allows the Internet Archive to make copies, but this is only available to non-profits (not Google), and the archive has to be publicly accessible (not for just personal use).

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    Its function is to find things that were on the web at some point in the past. Why do you think the legal status is different than things on the web right now? Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 0:03
  • How would the "no" case work? When you view anything on the web, you download it. Companies have made the content freely downloadable and it would be very rare to be faced with an "agreement" before viewing website content. Unless it's behind a paywall or login of some sort. In any case, for most users, this content would be saved in the browsers cache. If you were to then backup the cache, or do a full system backup, you have copied the content to a new location. How would these actions be legally different than just copying the image file to a new location for preservation (ie backup)?
    – mikem
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 3:44
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    @mikem For that issue I think it's answered here already: Why does browser cache not count as copyright infringement?. The sort of temporary copying that browsers do has specifically been decided as fair use in the U.S. However, if you then make a second copy of your cache for some other purpose, the reasoning in that U.S. case may no longer apply, so you could no longer automatically assume that the second copy is still fair use (it depends).
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 6:42
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    @mikem There is a specific exception for backups of "computer programs" in the U.S. law, see Legality of creating your own backup copies of video games you own. I don't know if you could use this argument to create a backup copy of a web page, though. I guess one might argue that it's a sort of computer program incorporating both data and code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) and therefore allowed. Still, it would still probably make more logical sense to argue fair use for this.
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 6:45

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