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If I Found It on the Internet, It’s Free…right?


Explaining the common misconception that everything found on the internet is free. Just because you found this image on Google, it does not mean it is free!

I need to open up this platform to educate everyone that just because you found it on the internet, it does not mean it is free.

Repeat after me: just because I found it on the internet, it does not mean it is free.

I think the general misconception and lack of education about this causes people to think everything on the internet is free.

I’m not saying everyone thinks this and I’m sorry if you think this is directed at you in any way and if you think I’m talking down on you. That is not my intent. My intent is to educate.

I think education is always a good thing to brush up on, especially in this very digital age.

I believe that the more something is talked about and shared, the more people will start to understand.

There needs to be conversation and education about this because it is happening all too often in the content creation world.

This is just an example of one content creator who’s work was stolen.

She was nice about it and the account owner was a jackass about it (as most are).


“I found this image on Google, so it’s free for me to use.”

No, please get that out of your head.

How does this even happen?

People head to Google, type in “lemon blueberry cupcake,” Google spits out a bunch of images and people right click and save as.

In order for that image to be on the internet, there is a content creator behind that image.

The content creator created that content. Meaning, they took their time, photography equipment, ingredients, and editing software to create the image.

This is not free.

In fact, under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, all photographs are protected by copyright from the very moment of creation aka the second that content creator presses the shutter button, they have already copy written that piece of work. If you take that photo and alter it in any way, it is a copyright violation.

Unless the photo is released as royalty-free stock photography, then it is not free for use anywhere but the content creator’s website!

Just like recipes on this site aren’t “free.”

They’re free in the sense that I don’t charge a subscription fee for you to view them but on MY side of things, they aren’t free because I have to pay for the web hosting and all the behind the scenes stuff to get the content on the internet for you.

Which is why I have ads on my site. It helps offset my operation costs. It makes me so angry when I get comments saying I have “too many ads” on my site. It’s just the same as CNN or any other website out there!

What if I legitimately want to use the image? How would I proceed?


I don’t understand the issue with this. Every time I find my photo used on an Instagram account or elsewhere, there was zero permission given and zero permission seeked. This isn’t innocent little accounts who don’t know any better but this is like big PR firms and big brands.

Not asking permission to use something is essentially stealing. I don’t think people associate that concept with the internet because again, most people tend to think that everything on the internet is free.

There is a creator behind every piece of content you find and you need to seek permission to use it.

Generally, most content creators will be more than happy to let you use their content and they will have some requirements and the most important requirement after seeking permission? Giving credit.

Give credit where credit is due.

On top of seeking permission you need to give credit! A simple line of “photo by: _____” and link to their website or tag their account on Instagram/social media will suffice.

Stop altering images.

Another thing I see is that original images by the content creator are being altered.

Meaning, the image is either getting cropped, modified, filters slapped on it, etc.

The content creator edited the photo to their unique style and for you to just slap a filter on it or to crop it is a copyright violation. It is altering original work and you should not be doing it.

Why not just put a watermark on it to avoid this?

I hear this often and it doesn’t matter. People will just crop it out.

Plus, watermarks on photos take away the beauty and its integrity. They’re distracting because you end up focusing on it.

I used to watermark my photos but now I’m just like whatever. It won’t stop anyone from cropping it out (which, like I mentioned above, is a copyright violation).

Stop using our work for your gain.

I’m also seeing that these accounts and websites take our photos, create collages out of them (again, illegal), and then post it on their website then pin it on Pinterest so the traffic goes to them where it then says, “visit for the full recipe.”

Case in point, this website: – I hate that I’m even giving them traffic but my delicata squash, my pineapple fried rice, and cheesy hashbrown casserole recipe that’s on there? All those images are mine. They lifted them off my site without permission, repurposed them in a collage, and are using it for their gain.

There are MANY other sites out there like this. This is just one. It’s impossible to police, which is why I’ve stopped and just writing this blog post.

While that’s great and all they’re giving us credit at the end of their paragraph, that is not how our work should be promoted or intended to be used.

I also see this happen a lot on Instagram. They take our photo, use it in a post, then add 30 hashtags to the post so they get all the likes and new follows on the account.

While some people may not think it’s a big deal, to me it is a big deal because they’re using our work for their gain. And they aren’t paying for usage rights!

“It’s better to ask for forgiveness later than permission now”

No. That is NOT the truth with content. Please do not do this.

You don’t go to a clothing store, take a pair of pants, then say sorry when you get caught.

It’s the same thing with internet content.

I have seen several content creators who didn’t know better and a big brand/company went after them and they owed them damages.

And not like $200…like tens of thousands.

As a content creator, I don’t have the funds to use my lawyer every time I see something of mine online; it’s not worth it to me. I wish I could though! Haha

Stop posting our full recipes!

This directly relates to food bloggers so it’s not a general thing but it’s definitely something to touch on because just like images, our recipes are protected by copyright.

The ingredients, no.

The instructions, yes.

So, when you go and copy/paste our recipe in its entirety on your site or social account, you’re not only taking away traffic from us, you’re also violating copyright.

The same goes for taking a photo of a cookbook.

I have found so many of my cookbook images on the internet. How does this benefit me? No one is going to buy my cookbook if you just post the entire thing online, haha

This is different than you making my recipe and tagging me in it.

This is what food bloggers love!

We love when you make a recipe of ours and tag us in it. We love sharing what you are creating.

We don’t love when you make a recipe of ours and then post the entire recipe for your followers, haha

Does that make sense?

If you didn’t know, now you know!

My goal for this post was to educate and explain so I hope I have done that.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask below!

I’m happy to clarify for all content creators.


Monday 1st of April 2019

Totally with you on the pictures, but recipes are not protected under copyright law.They are not seen as an expression of an idea. Still annoying though.

Julie Wampler

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

So recipes are tricky. The ingredients are not protected under copyright law, you are correct in that part, but the directions are/can be because it's written in our own words so it can be taken as literary expression. "A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection."

Peter D DuPre

Monday 1st of April 2019

Julie: Thanks for a great refresher course on copyright & on the use of material from the Internet. I have bee a writer/photographer for over 50 years and have had numerous exchanges with persons who have stolen my work. A couple of time my articles were re-badged with a different byline. Your article put the issue in terms that I hope most people will understand. Thanks for the great recipes, also. I have saved a number of them to my files for use only. I will never reproduce them without your permission. Keep up the good work!

Julie Wampler

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Thanks Peter!!

Sandra Dorius

Sunday 31st of March 2019

Does this apply when you share a recipe on FB too? I often share recipes on FB, but had never thought about it being a copyright violation.

Julie Wampler

Sunday 31st of March 2019

Depends on how you're sharing the recipe on FB, Sandra! If you're posting the entire recipe then definitely no bueno. If you share it FROM the blogger's FB account (like say you press that arrow on the status to share to your page), then that's fine. If you're posting just the instructions and your own photo and then link to the recipe, then that's fine too. There are really so many ways, haha I totally understand why this can be confusing for Facebook sharing!

Alyson Long

Saturday 30th of March 2019

Why don't you use Copytrack? They go after the image theives for you. Great post, shared. Instagram in particular drives me nuts, every small business in our region seems to think it's OK to steal our work.

Julie Wampler

Sunday 31st of March 2019

I've never heard of that before! I'll have to find a U.S. version. Thank you!

Erica Acevedo

Saturday 30th of March 2019

I love how you go to bat for all of us, Julie. You're a blogger's Wonder Woman! I'm gonna share this errywhere. <3

Julie Wampler

Saturday 30th of March 2019

Content creators have to stick together, ya know?! We're all in this community <3 thanks for sharing!