From time to time when answering I so badly want to link in an image of a product to illustrate what kind of product I'm talking about. However I agree that we should not do product recommendations, neither directly (through links to online stores) or by referencing product names/sites/...

In addition you have the licensing issue of just pulling some random image of the net, and including it in your answer.

So my question is: What do you do when you want to illustrate your answer with some product, without endorsing that product, or illustration?

On a sidenote: How do we handle images which are clearly lifted from a random website, without clear licensing?

Currently my attempt at doing this somewhat correctly, is to include links to google searches. Here is an example link looking for illustrative images:


However this is an external link, and the answer doesn't have the catchy image to illustrate my intended solution. Do you have any suggestions on how to get illustrative images legally?

2 Answers 2


Using Images

What do you do when you want to illustrate your answer with some product.

Use them.

The use of images we "lift from a random website" is almost definitely covered under fair use. Use however, should be attributed.

1. Purpose and character of the use

for the enrichment of the general public .. [and not] for reasons of personal profit

Although we get precious reputation for posting questions and answers, I don't think this counts legally as profit.

2. Nature of the copyrighted work

consider certain aspects of the work to be relevant

Try to post relevant images

3. Amount and substantiality

the quantity or percentage of the original copyrighted work that has been imported into the new work

This is unlikely to be a problem, we're copying a few images, not a product's design.

4. Effect upon work's value

specific use of the work has significantly harmed the copyright owner's market

If anything, we're providing a small benefit by essentially advertising specific products.


...without endorsing that product, or illustration

This is a bit trickier, but I would say "Don't worry about it". Just pick an image that best illustrates what point you want to convey.

If a user is clearly endorsing a product, especially their own, I'd raise a spam flag.


How do we handle images which are clearly lifted from a random website, without clear licensing?

If we assume that we can use the images with fair use, then licensing isn't a problem, but attribution still is. For an image used without attribution, I'd suggest leaving a comment asking the OP to properly attribute it. It's worth noting however, that a lot of users (myself included) often simply forget, so I'd keep the comment light in tone.

  • True. I try to add a website that I got the image from and clearly say that I do not own it.
    – Pobrecita
    Oct 29, 2015 at 18:23
  • (1) Stack Exchange is redistributing the content for profit. (3) The photos are often the complete work themselves, which (4) is often stock photography intended for this very purpose and thereby being directly devalued. Justifications for Fair Use typical include a meta level (criticism, comparison, commentary, reporting of the work itself) which is absent here. IANAL but this is definitely not a clear-cut case of fair use.
    – Jeremy
    Nov 4, 2015 at 1:32

In google image search you can use search tools to filter image results only to display images which are marked as free for use.

For search with URL I have found the following cases:

  1. Labeled for reuse


  2. Labeled for reuse with modification


  3. Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification


  4. Labeled for noncommercial reuse


I always prefer to take the camera and make my own picture or if impossible I can draw the thing I want to show.

  • How do you specify that you only want images marked as free for use? And can that easily used in a google link?
    – holroy
    Nov 2, 2015 at 20:32
  • @holroy maybe it is advanced image search -> usage rights. I have to check, my google is not in english and I can't tell you exactly what to click.
    – vladiz
    Nov 2, 2015 at 20:43
  • 1
    @holroy at the end of url http://google.com/search?tbm=isch&q=illustrative+images you have to use one of these &tbs=sur:fc or &tbs=sur:fmc or &tbs=sur:fm or &tbs=sur:f for different rights
    – vladiz
    Nov 2, 2015 at 20:53

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