Small Businesses May Be Image Thieves Without Even Knowing It

3 billion images are shared online every day, and 85% of them are either stolen or without the proper copyright clearance for commercial purposes. The biggest problems are found on the most popular image-websites such as Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels, and something needs to happen now, says the project Legal Images, which is fighting for better copyright protection and more clear photo licensing online.

According to its own numbers, the hugely popular photo-platform Unsplash has reached more than 1 billion downloads since its launch in 2013. Together with fellow free-website colleagues Pixabay and Pexels, it’s used daily by thousands of companies to find photos for their next newsletter, website, blog post or advertising campaign. However, this comes with a huge risk for small businesses all over the world.

Legal Images has launched the website to fight the copyright problems and create a more transparent image industry. When the copyright infringement experts at Copytrack can document that 3 billion images are shared online everyday, and that 85% of these photos are stolen, something is fundamentally wrong.

“Even though there is also a legal part of the photo industry - with major players such as Shutterstock and Getty Images – the gray-zone is simply too massive, and something needs to happen,” says James Peterson from Legal Images. “At Legal Images, we see a clear comparison to what happened with the music platform Napster that made headlines 20 years ago for disrupting the music industry. It started out as a huge success, but turned into a story of multiple copyright-violation lawsuits, and the photo industry could be about to experience the same earthquake, because these free websites do not insure the users in any way.”

Even though the free websites claim to offer photos that can be used for all commercial purposes, this is simply not the case, and Legal Images have documented this on their website quoting paragraphs like this one from

On the main pages of all free websites, they claim that their photos can be used for all commercial purposes, but if you dig just a little deeper into their legal terms & conditions, you will start finding paragraphs like this (Unsplash):

"Photos on the Service come with a very, very broad copyright license under the Unsplash License. This is why we say that they are 'Free to Use.' Note that the Unsplash License does not include the right to use:

A. Trademarks, logos, or brands that appear in Photos

B. People's images if they are recognizable in the Photos

C. Works of art or authorship that appear in Photos”

The impact of this can be massive – not only for the ‘free’ image providers, but mainly for the millions of small and medium-sized companies that have been downloading and using the photos from these platforms. And Legal Images want changes to happen now to protect both copyright holders and small companies.

Links for more info:

Press contact:
​​James Peterson

Source: Legal Images