When one uses free stock images websites which are there on the internet, it does not necessarily mean that the image is free. The user would need to have a license to use the image unless it specifically says that the owner of that picture or the photograph has waived off his or her rights to the picture and it is in the public domain.
Difference between public domain and online images
That is the main difference when one sees the image online and one which is in the public domain. The public domain image is not owned or controlled by anybody. However, what is found online could be subject to copyright laws.
When a company or an organization employs a third party designer or gives a contract or has an employee or an intern who uses the image when they design and develop the website of the company, the owner is responsible for the image and maybe even sued by the owner of the picture. Therefore the owner must ensure that the license for the images which are used has been purchased or the free stock images website from which the image is procured specifically mentions in the terms and conditions that the images are copyright free and can be used for personal as well as commercial use. In case there is no license, there is a possibility of infringement of copyright, and the company would need to pay punitive damages. It could even lead to lawsuits and legal fees, and in some cases, even it could be considered a criminal offense. If the person who has provided the images contacted the company stating that the license is expiring, they would follow it with a renewal license notice for the images. One would need to get sales order numbers in invoice numbers for those images which are used on the website and keep it.
Regardless of even if a person is just a blogger they would still need to have the images which are properly licensed on their website. In order to ensure that they are using and have a license for using the image there are different places where they can search for the information. They can also find out from their legal team in case they have questions or look at the terms and conditions of the free stock images websites which they have got the picture from or conduct a search to see if the picture is subject to any copyright law.
Most sites which offer free stock images also do not necessarily come with a model release. So it is necessary before the image is used, for the user to find out whether there is a model release which is available for the image. They should also find out if they are using the image the same way as a model release states or else they need to get a release or a consent form to use these copyright articles.
These are just some of the things one needs to be aware of when using free stock images websites.