In an ad campaign, can I use a photo I found on a website if I can’t find who owns the photo?

I found a great image on [a website] that I want to use in an ad campaign. Can use it even if I can’t find out who owns it since it’s ‘out there’ on the web?

Melissa on Jan 23, 2009

No. Ad campaigns are certainly “commercial,” so permission from the photographer is required. Look at the website to find an indication of who owns the photo, there might be an image credit. There might be contact information in the metadata (embedded data) of the photo — some web browsers allow you to do that via an extension, or use a photo editing application. You could also drop the image into Google Images ( to see if anything useful comes up. Failing that, license a similar image from a microstock agency like Shutterstock.

commercial, metadata

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