Personal SEO ~ Website Marketing and Content Writing: One More Time - Stop Using Google Images for Post Pics

One More Time - Stop Using Google Images for Post Pics

Inevitably, I get an email about once per month with a panicked statement from an associate, past client or friend about a lawyer requiring them to stop using a copyrighted photo in their blog post. Either in past posts or pages or even current ones, the owner of the blog has used an image they had no authority using. They panic and have no idea what to do.  

You may have even experienced it yourself. I hear about a lot of you that say, this guy is using my photo for his cover header, or this person used my photo on their blog.  One more time folks


Find images for posts

I've probably talked about this before but it demands reiteration. It's just happening too much! Do you really want to risk a $5000 lawsuit for a simple image of a comic because it fit with the topic in the post?  It's just not worth it. 

Now, I don't care if my kid uses an image he found online for a quick personal printout for school or something that no one else will see but our household, but if it's out there for the world to see and especially if it's commercial in any way,  you cannot use it! PERIOD. 


What do you do if you get one of these emails or letters?

Lawyer letterIf ANYONE questions where you got the image or if they say you have used their image without their permission, just take it down. It's a picture, for crying out loud. It's not worth it. Immediately remove it, UNLESS you are positive YOU took the image or that you obtained it legally. (Honestly, unless you can prove you took the image yourself, I would just remove it rather than fight it.)

IF you get a legal letter requiring you to pay for the photo, take it down immediately. AND it all depends on how much they're asking for. I've seen emails where they've asked for $10 and others where they have asked for $5000. I AM NOT A LAWYER, so I cannot give any legal advice, but I can give my opinion and experience. Sometimes being nice really can work. If you remove the image right away, many times they will go away. I've known some agents that just remove the image and then don't respond to any other emails and eventually they go away. I've known some agents that pay a couple hundred bucks and drop the issue. But, don't count on it. If you've used an image without permission or even without attribution, you could be in trouble.


What's Attribution?

Attribution is like accreditation. You are giving credit to the person that actually took the image. You may be able to use the image according to their license but you must give credit where credit is due, and YES, they can come back at you if you miss that little attribution. See below...  If you use the image, you have to put the Attribution on the same page.


There are a lot of similar sites out there but it's important to verify they allow use for commercial posts and pages. 


Where to find images?

Stay FAR away from Getty Images. They have free embed images for blog posts but they are kind of wonky and require you to use their photo the way they want you to display it... In my opinion, it's just too difficult and risky.

There are a few great sites out there for free and paid. 

  • - Great site for developing images with text and design (most images are $1)
  • - Paid site where clear, crisp, high-quality images can be up to $15 each
  • - Where we usually find high-quality cover and header images for $15 each
  • Unsplash - Free for commercial use
  • - New site, free stock photos
  • - Free site with no attribution
  • - Free site and they offer a plugin for Wordpress sites so you can search their site, right in the back end of your own!
  • - very few public domain (free) images, most are with attribution
  • - Be cautious. There are some great images here for attribution but most are copyrighted, HOWEVER, I have emailed the photographer and asked for permission for commercial use. I have only gotten one 'no'. I keep the email to prove I have permission and send the artist the link. If you use one with attribution, make sure you give appropriate credit. 
  • - Free stock photo website
  • - this site searches all known CC images but be aware that they do not assume responsibility for the images, it is still up to you to verify you have permission to use them:

"Please note that is not a search engine, but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations. CC has no control over the results that are returned. Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link. Since there is no registration to use a CC license, CC has no way to determine what has and hasn't been placed under the terms of a CC license. If you are in doubt you should contact the copyright holder directly, or try to contact the site where you found the content."

But if you really want to always steer clear of any issues, just take the photo yourself. I know that's hard to do but I have done it multiple times because I can't find any image that works. You know no one is coming back at you for your own image.

I'm sure I will get some flack on here and this brings up a controversial topic for sure, but I'm trying to save you some serious stress. There's nothing like getting an email accusing you of copyright violation and a $5000 (or more) bill to go along with it. 

Read More: More about Wiki Commons Images

What NOT to Do in SEO

Wiki image By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Personal SEO Tim and Tammy Emineth

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Tim and Tammy Emineth have owned Personal SEO since 2004. We focus on SEO first whether it's blogging, images, website design, IDX solutions and calls to action. We operate with a Storybrand philosophy to encourage more traffic to your site, more eyes on your content and more leads to your business. Call us or email us for a free website audit.

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Comment balloon 74 commentsTammy Emineth • October 26 2017 04:10PM


Just saw a video of a "wantrepreneur" that was shocked that a "sadistic" photographer would sue him for using their photo in marketing efforts that they found on google images.  About $40K was the penalty paid.  It's no joke! 

Posted by John Meussner, #MortgageMadeEasy Walnut Creek, CA 484-680-4852 (Mason-McDuffie Mortgage, Conventional Loans, Jumbo Loans, FHA, 203(k), USDA, VA,) over 2 years ago

I know I was guilty of this before, just didn't know any better. Thanks for sharing this information. 

Posted by Rachell Lara & A List Properties, A List Properties - San Diego Neighborhood Experts (eXp Realty / 619.316.7445) over 2 years ago just sent me a special - 100 photos for $100. They have smaller programs available also.

Everyone should bone up on copyright.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 2 years ago

My policy:

Take my own picture, or

Use a copyright free picture, or

Pay for the usage of a picture.


Posted by Dave Halpern, Louisville Short Sale Expert (Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827) over 2 years ago

Most stock photography websites are a great way to get good photos. They require payment, but it is worth it. It is either pay $15 to $150 or pay $5000 or more because of copyright infringment. Great advice and great post. Thanks for sharing. 

Posted by Corey Martin, Real Estate and Management Solutions (Martin Presence Group) over 2 years ago

loved this article. thank you for all of the great places to get SAFE photos!

Posted by Danielle O'Brien, Real estate Broker / Owner in Boston (Parkway Real Estate) over 2 years ago

Somehow people think that if they find something online that is already public and up for grabs.  The creator of the image is the legal owner. They do not love it when you cut and paste.  Many years ago I was involved with the Illustrators Society in NY when work for hire was owned by the company that commissioned it. Time Magazine claimed that they owned all the negatives and original photos of every photographer who was published in a magazine. The courts did not agree. The creator of the image owns it. 

Posted by Mary Jo Quay, I Move You Home (EXP Realty ) over 2 years ago

Tammy Emineth Well deserved feature and thank you for sharing!


Because of AR many years ago, I have always taken my own pictures and made my own graphics. Time consuming but it has become more a creative release for me. Not unusual to spend as much time or more on the picture etc than the writing.

Posted by Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) over 2 years ago

Hi Tammy - That's very sound advice. The advantages of just grabbing something off the internet just aren't worth the potential downside, and there are people out there making a living going after this.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) over 2 years ago

Hi Tammy, this advice is great and should also apply to MLS Photos. Do not use the previous agent's photos. This has happened to me and the agent took down my orginal photos and in a few days took their own photos. It does happen and your advice to be nice goes a long way.

Posted by Clay R. Seay (Florida Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 2 years ago

Back when I was doing lots of posts with pictures I was using Iclipart which I paid a subscription to. Wonder if they are still in business?

Posted by Mike Frazier, Northwest Tennessee Realtor (Carousel Realty of Dyer County) over 2 years ago

I take my own pics then i know i am coveed. 

Posted by Scott Godzyk, One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents (Godzyk Real Estate Services) over 2 years ago

I take 99% of my own photos. For those I don't, you mentioned Pixabay which I like using. You don't have to pay a lot for most photos.

Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) over 2 years ago

Hi Tammie - I pay for my images and have proof.  I use iStock photos.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) over 2 years ago

Great post!  Very informative!

Posted by Tim Tanz, St Louis Real Estate (Platinum Realty) over 2 years ago

Hi Tammy, many people don't even realize. If I don't have my photos, I happily pay for them. 

Posted by Beth Atalay, Cam Realty of Clermont FL (Cam Realty and Property Management) over 2 years ago

Great info, Tammy. Funny that I saw this today. I saw one of my photos on a woman's Pintrest page today. I was truly a fluke that I saw it, but there it was. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 2 years ago

Tammy the True....

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 2 years ago

Awesome Info, Thank you

Posted by Michael Peron, Michael Peron, Dave Florida Real Estate (South Florida Home Solutions) over 2 years ago

Great post. I use Adobe pics. I pay monthly but I would rather pay than have legal issues over something that isn't worth it.

Posted by Dr. Karen Lewis, Broker 954-2489149, No Compromise When it Comes to Our Clients! (K1 Realty Group) over 2 years ago


I got two good sites from your posts. Mostly I take my own. I like taking photos anyway.  Good post. 


Posted by Dana Basiliere, Making deals "Happen" (Rossi & Riina Real Estate) over 2 years ago

Hi Tammy Emineth   Thanks for a great reminder.  I have a very simple solution for everyone.

Buy a camera...and take hundreds of photos...and then go through the photos and make your own archives based on subjects.   All kinds of photos are out there just waiting for you to take the picture. 

Know the rules and stay away from other peoples photos.  

Thanks again for all of your suggestions.

Posted by Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker, Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 (Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska) over 2 years ago

Great Article.  I take my own photos and/or pay a service to use photos.  Not worth the risk.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention!  Tammy Emineth YOU are Awesome!

Posted by Diana Dahlberg, Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563 (1 Month Realty) over 2 years ago

Good information. 

Posted by Keith Shoemaker, "The Deal Maker" (Florida Homes Realty and Mortgage) over 2 years ago

Thank you so much for this post. I am a real estate broker, but I'm also a professional photographer. I have had this happen to me so many times. Most of the letters sent by my attorney were ignored and those I did talk to said they found my photo online, and therefore it was ok to use. Because of the time and stress it was going to require to pursue these people (2 marketing companies, a local college, a local chamber of commerce, etc.) I didn't pursue it. But I regret that I did not. We MUST get the word out, and that's why I love this post. There will always be unscrupulous people who will do it anyway, but I think if we educate people, most people will do the right thing and not use without permission. As a photographer who takes the time to take and edit the perfect photo, it is so painful to see someone just take my work and use it for their purposes without permission. 

Posted by Debbi Brawley, Specializing in waterfront & waterview propertie (Brawley & Associates Real Estate) over 2 years ago

Thanks for this post, Tammy.  Nothing is more maddening than to see pictures that I spent time and effort taking appearing on anothe agent's blog post, or even worse, an MLS listing.  This has happened to me many times.  The culprit is usually clueless, and often testy about it.  Drives me CRAZY!!!

Posted by Melissa Brown, Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale (Helen Adams Realty) over 2 years ago

I pay for all of my photos or I shoot them myself. I would never stoop to stealing somebody else's photo. Oh, it's on the internet it must be free is so idiotic.

You also can't post video without permission, yet I see people do it all the time. They say, Oh, I like this musician and they post the video. Unless you're standing in the front row filming the performance, and even then you might need permission, you can't do it.

The only thing I have to add for you, Tammy, is mark your calendar and post this blog again in a few months because once or twice is not enough.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (RE/MAX Gold) over 2 years ago

This is the best post I have ever seen on AR.  This should get post of the year.  Absolutely great information that effects everyone!


Great job!!! 

Posted by Dave Werth, FULL TIME REALTOR (WERTH REALTY ) over 2 years ago

Unsplash at is by far my favorite free image site. 

Posted by Ross Hair (Real Estate Advocate) over 2 years ago

One or more of the newspapers, I'm thinking it was Knight-Ridder, actually hires people to search for mis-use of their photos, and they WILL sue. Be very careful not to use a picture from a newspaper. They are too desperate for money right now. :-)

Fotolia is a real good site to buy very inexpensive pictures. Most that are not a huge size are only $3-4. has a lot of very high quality shots for free, and some paid, too.

Posted by Jan Chilton, Real Estate Marketing over 2 years ago

I've heard some real horror stories of agents using copyrighter photos and getting sued for BIG bucks. I've also heard of some cases of people using Getty images, and they are relentless in tracking down their photos and going after the offendes.It's just not worth it...ever!

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) over 2 years ago

I used Google images a long time ago because I'd been told it was OK. When I found out it was NOT OK, I went back and removed all of them. I often use, which has both paid and free images - with attribution, of course.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 2 years ago

Your posts are always so well written and informative! Thank you!

Posted by Debra Leisek ( Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska) over 2 years ago

Great post, Tammy, and like Elizabeth said above, re-post this a few times in the future.

Posted by John McCarthy, Realtor - Seacoast NH (Bean Group Portsmouth NH) over 2 years ago

Thank you Tammy! I find your posts to offer the BEST information and content. Appreciate your helpfulness.

Posted by Nancy Manby, Your Downsizing Specialist (William Raveis Real Estate) over 2 years ago

This post is great as so many still don't get it. I mostly use my own photos, but if need be sometimes use  Thanks!

Posted by Donna Quinlan, Keller Williams Real Estate Agent Career Consultan (Keller Williams Realty) over 2 years ago

This is very important information, especially the links for those who don't take their own photos.

It seems to be a very prevalent belief that anything on the Internet is fair game for use. I've heard people I know say, "but it's on the Internet so anyone can use it" and I have to explain why that's not true.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) over 2 years ago

Yes, you need to pick your images  wisely - but that is common sense.  I have 6 blogs  and have been blogging  for  11 years.  In that time, have gotten  2  letters  to remove  images  and one letter  asking  I credit  the person.  So just choose  wisely. 

Posted by derrick sorles (Business Blogging Consultants) over 2 years ago

Thank you for the reminder and for suggesting sites that will keep us out of trouble.  There are so many sites offering photographs, it's good to have recommendations from someone with experience.

Posted by Karen Rice Madison AL Realtor, 256-348-1527 Call/Text (Keller Williams Realty Madison) over 2 years ago

Everyone needs to read this post about images on the internet. Thanks for posting this, as I make this a key point to new agents in the market centers  I work with. This post will be shared to many people.

Posted by faye schubert, Living the Branson Lake Life over 2 years ago

Shoot your own and make it original, local. Great post Tammy Emineth !

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 2 years ago

The post is very timely, 15 years ago the issue would be nothing in most peoples mind but creative work is just that copyrighted, Thanks for the post.

Posted by Fred Sweezer Sr., Certified Home Inspector (Hud Certified 203K Consultant) over 2 years ago

Tammy Emineth - You should add to your free uncopyrighted photo list. The pictures are fantastic. On the first page it says "free high resolution photos." Check it out.

Posted by Suzanne Strickler, School is never out for the Successful. (Realty Mark Associates) over 2 years ago

Great Post... as you know we had the experience with an image and paid for it to just go away. Its always best to use your own images.

Posted by Peter Westbrook, We Buy Houses As-Is, No Contingencies (Westbrook REI (We Buy Houses)) over 2 years ago

Needed this post years ago!  Go nailed with a letter wanting $1,800!  Our attorney negotiated it down to $900.00.  I learned an expensive lesson!


Posted by Carol Tunis, Carol Tunis...a "HouseSold" name! (Florida Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 2 years ago

I never leave my home without my camera.

Posted by Peter Mohylsky. The Santa Rosa Beach Expert, THE BEACH IS OPEN (PrimeSouth Properties) over 2 years ago

My favorite sourse is Pixabay. I've had great luck with them, usually finding exactly what I need. I also use a lot of my own photos.

You can't warn people about this enough. There are still people who don't know or don't think it's a big deal and are willing to risk it

I'm not willing to risk it!

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 2 years ago

EXCELLENT post! And great comments warning us that the financial dangers are real.

We use for most of our newsletter photos, unless we take them ourselves. As a provider of newsletters to agents, we can't risk any push back by fudging our photos. If you blog a ton, buying a low-cost subscription to a photo service makes it easier. for instance is $100 for 175 credits. If you target medium sized images, which cost 3 credits per image, you'd get 58 images.

Posted by Linda Schneider, Fast Newsletters for Real Estate Agents (Fast Newsletters) over 2 years ago

Congratulations on your feature! This is great information. I remember a long time ago reading one took risks by using other photos, even if they were offered for free. For that reason, I always use my own photos. I feel safer; however, I fear others could steal my photos and my writing content. 

Posted by Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) over 2 years ago

I do pay for images and Canva is a good source for pictures, graphics, and other marketing.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 2 years ago

Thanks for the list of resources if we don't have a suitable photo in our own inventory.

Posted by M.C. Dwyer, MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist (Century 21 Showcase REALTORs) over 2 years ago

Great article, Tammy.  For inexpensive photos, check out  (I have an affiliate link if you need it).  It's just $1/image (or a tad less...30 images for $29 in a month using their  flex plan.  You can turn the plan on and off as you need and credits roll over.

I was really annoyed w/ Canva where I bought an image and it was only good for 24 hrs...they tried to increase the cost to $10 or something to use in more than 1 canva image.  And, I've found way more better pictures on

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 2 years ago

Great post, Tammy.  I will bookmark this for future reference.

Posted by Chris Lima, Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you. (Atlantic Shores Realty Expertise) over 2 years ago

Good advice...that would be dreadful to get dinged on using a photo or image in appropriately on the blog!

Posted by Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR, Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes) over 2 years ago

Tammy- what a good reminder!  There have been posts written here about receiving that dreaded letter. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 2 years ago

Thanks for the list, Tammy.  Nothing is worth the hassle of  law suit or a $5,000 fine, particularly when there are free sources that will do the trick includiing your own.

Posted by Betsy N. Robinson - Serving the Sandhills, NC, CNS (Everything Pines Partners, LLC.) over 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing Tammy. Just the other day I was trying to find a site where I could get images to use so this information came in very handy!

Posted by Tina D Saporito, Your Dedicated Palm Desert, CA Realtor Since 2005, Call (760)799-8460. (Ronald Christopher & Associates. Proudly serving Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio, Rancho Mirage, & Palm Springs.) over 2 years ago

Thank you for the information about some sites for free photos. I will bookmark this post.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 2 years ago

Great article, Tammy. I've also learned you can conduct an image search on Google and then go to TOOLS > USAGE RIGHTS and change the settings to search only for images free to use.

Posted by Nathan Gesner, Broker / Property Manager (American West Realty and Management) over 2 years ago

Tammy,  Another great informative post.  I did not know that Pixabay has a WordPress plugin.  Thank you.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) over 2 years ago

Great advice. I really like that unsplash web site.  Nice photos and actually free.Thanks!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 2 years ago

Great post Tammy.  There are too many sites that are free, or inexpensive, to get photos from.  Why ask for trouble by using an image that requires permission?

Posted by Dan Derito (Success! Real Estate) over 2 years ago

Dear Tammy,

Good reminder.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) over 2 years ago

Fabulous post, Tammy Emineth!  I subscribe to one image download website and other than that I make sure every photo in every post is a photo I myself have taken.  The images may not be perfect but at least they are mine to use as I wish...

Posted by Brenda Whitman, Live in Laramie Real Estate, Broker/Co-Owner, Laramie, Wyoming (Live in Laramie Real Estate, Laramie, Wyoming) over 2 years ago

Tammy, great reminder and topic for a re-blog.

QUESTION: This rule does or doesn't apply to Facebook? We can use any photos we want in social media vs. a blog?

Posted by Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor e-Pro, CRS, RCS-D, Vets, & Host of Postcards From Success Podcast (Big Block Realty 858.232.8722) over 2 years ago

I like to use Free Digital Photos with attribution. Thanks for sharing this information again because I frequently see posts and wonder where those photos came from.

Posted by Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty, 601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell (Front Gate Real Estate) over 2 years ago

Great information as always.  I end up taking a lot of my own photos and Canva comes in handy!

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) over 2 years ago

Tammy Emineth "...if it's out there for the world to see and especially if it's commercial in any way,  you cannot use it! PERIOD. "

Right on target - and - re-blog!

Posted by Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers, Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty (Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area) over 2 years ago

Good morning Tammy. I think you are right, it's a picture but if it's your picture is is special.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) over 2 years ago

Tammy Emineth Always a welcomed sight to see an informative post from you. <Bookmarked>! Thanks!

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) over 2 years ago

This is a great reminder.   Like everyone else, I've bookmarked this important post. 

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) over 2 years ago

Good reminder, Tammy.  I know a number of people that got notifications from Getty Images for copyright misuse of their photos.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 2 years ago

Getty or Shutterstock

Posted by Ricardo Mello, Manhattan & Miami Real Estate Agent (Manhattan Miami Real Estate) about 2 years ago

Very informative, especially for those of us who didn't k ow some of those web sites existed! Thank you.


Posted by Barbara Tattersall, GRI (Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan (Keene,NH)) almost 2 years ago

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