Are You Infringing on a Copyright by Using Them?

We see them everywhere we look. Reviews are all over the websites we look at and the Google searches that we conduct. They help us make decisions regarding purchases, books we read, television shows we watch, and so much more. But are they being used correctly, or are they violating copyright law? So let’s take a look.

What is a Google Review?

Google reviews are user-generated content. User-generated content means that the copyright belongs to the original author. Google reviews are voluntary, unpaid online ratings and feedback that customers submit about places they’ve visited, products that they’ve used, or companies they’ve done business with. They are extremely powerful because they are tied to and directly influence Google searches, Google Maps, and Google Business listings. These reviews make it easy for people to leave feedback and images and tell others about their experiences.

Why are Google Reviews Important?

In today’s digital age, online reviews are unavoidable in owning or doing business. Whether you are a mom-and-pop shop, a chain restaurant, or a bookstore, your customers are going to look for you online.  According to Search Engine Journal, a BrightLocal survey found that 49% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. BrightLocal’s research also went on to discover that 60% of consumers feel that the number of reviews a business has is crucial when deciding to use its services. Where do most people go when looking for reviews? You guessed it – Google. Google is one of the most widely recognized review platforms there is. Your customers are looking for your business and what people say about it to determine their next steps with your business. Online reviews are important to your growing business and are here to stay.  They are directly linked to customer trust and a direct line to your consumers.

Can I Use Google Reviews on My Website, Social Media, or Print Campaigns?

The simple answer – is YES. However, the use of Google reviews is only legal if you comply with Google’s guidelines for using their content and copyright laws and obtain permission from the author of the review. You may obtain permission to use Google reviews by making sure your contracts, purchase agreements, and terms of use on your website contain the necessary approvals for publishing those reviews. You can accomplish this with a click to approve or a signature form.

Google’s guidelines state that you can only use the content in the context of Google Maps or Google Business services. In addition, you cannot use the content outside of Google’s platforms. For example, you cannot copy and paste onto your website or social media channels.

To legally use a Google review on your website, you can use Google widgets or integrated website coding to display the reviews. This method will ensure that the reviews are displayed in compliance with Google guidelines. Additionally, if you use a structured data approach on your website, known as a “schema,” your site may be eligible to display star ratings and other review information in search results listings. And as always, you should attribute the reviews to their original author.

If you seek to use a review from Google reviews outside of Google’s platforms, you will need permission from the author to obtain a license or agreement to use the content. Consider using a third-party user-generated content platform or creating your own application where users can provide reviews directly to your website. Reviews collected in this manner may be used on your website without infringing on any copyright laws. In fact, some third-party apps such as Trust Pilot or are Google partners, so these reviews may also show up on Google platforms.

How Can I Use a Google Review Legally on my Website?

Here are the steps to use a Google Review legally:

  1. Use Google’s Widgets or APIs: Google provides widgets and integrated website coding that you can use to display Google reviews on your website or other platforms. Using these tools ensures that the review complies with Google’s guidelines.
  2. Attribute the Review: When displaying Google reviews on your website, attribute them to their original author. You may include the author’s name, profile picture, and date the review was posted.
  3. Do not modify the review: You should not modify the content of the Google review in any way. It should be displayed as it appears on Google without edits or changes.
  4. Obtain Permission: If you want to use a Google review outside of Google’s platforms or widgets, obtain permission from the original author of the review. You can contact the author and ask their permission to use their content.
  5. Comply with copyright laws: Make sure you are not infringing on copyright laws by using the Google review. If the review is protected by copyright, you may need to obtain a license or agreement to use the content.

Using content that someone else created can be tricky. You may think that using Google reviews is fair game because it’s about your company and is available on a public platform. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Once a third party creates something and puts it in a tangible medium, such as a review on Google, they hold the copyright to that content. And since it’s on a Google platform, Google also has usage rights under its terms and guidelines.

Rely on Your Copyright Attorney and Marketing Team to Navigate the User-Generated Content Space

Tapping into the power of Google reviews is a smart thing to do for your business reputation. By following the guidelines for using Google reviews, you should be clear of copyright infringement. It is important to remember that intellectual property laws are complex, change over time, and are unique to every situation. You may check Google’s own resource center on the use of reviews or contact our team at SecureMark Legal for up-to-date information.

Remember, when in doubt – ASK. SecureMark Legal is here to assist you with any copyright questions or filings you may have. And our friends at Dragon Horse Agency are available to assist with monitoring, maintaining, and growing strong Google reviews for your business.


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