Legal rights not to be photographed?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Carlos Moreno, Feb 12, 2004.

  1. I'm not sure the subject explains very well what I'm trying
    to ask, so I'll elaborate.

    Basically, I'm curious about what happens if I'm just taking
    a walk in the park (or downtown, or wherever) with my camera
    and I feel like taking a photograph of someone I don't know,
    just because I found the scene interesting (could be a beggar,
    or a security guard, or maybe a "street artist" like those
    guys that just sit on a sidewalk singing and asking for money).

    My curiosity is, how do things work concerning their rights
    to be or not be photographed?

    On the one hand, I could argue that if they're in public,
    and if I had the right to "see" them, then I should have
    the right to "memorize what I saw". I'm not taking a
    photograph of something that I (or other people) didn't
    have the right to see (such as what they would do in the
    privacy of their homes); I'm not harming them or assaulting
    them in any way (they emited photons that reached me).

    But on the other hand, it is very easy to argue in favor
    of their rights not to be photographed -- why would one
    have the right to carry (and do who knows what) an image
    of someone else without their consent and possibly even
    without their awareness?

    From the practical point of view, sure, the answer is
    trivial -- what prevents me from using a 300 or 400
    telephoto lens and take a picture of them from 20 meters

    I'm hoping that you guys will have some experience in the
    subject, and perhaps first hand knowledge about how things
    stand, both from the legal point of view, and from the
    "moral" point of view -- when I say "moral, I mean in case
    it is legal, is it considered rude to do that? Is it
    acceptable if one tells the person? (this last point may be
    a tough one -- in most cases, I would be interested in taking
    a photograph of a spontaneous, natural situation; if I
    approach the person first, then the potential for value in
    that picture goes down to zero).

    I'll be most grateful for any comments or thoughts!


    Carlos Moreno, Feb 12, 2004
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  2. Carlos Moreno

    Chris Guest

    Well, I've heard that alot of professional photographers have their subjects
    sign a release form to the effect, stating they will not interfere or object
    to the photographer's taking of their picture.

    I've never actually seen or heard of someone "sued" for taking a photo in
    public of them. We all have heard of the outragious paparazzi scaling
    private fences, but that's not the same thing. I'd tend to agree with you,
    if you can see it legally, you can record it legally.
    Chris, Feb 12, 2004
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  3. Carlos Moreno

    MisNomer Guest

    This is an interesting question. There is a rule of thumb, and it is "do unto
    others as you would have them do unto you".

    I take it that you are not a professional and that you will not be making a ton
    of money from them, but if you were to say sell the picture then you would have
    to have a "release" from the model. To enter a contest you have to have a
    release signed. If it was for your own enjoyment, then I don't know. If it
    was a news story? Everybody likes their picture in the paper don't they?
    Although some of the pics in newspapers - well i sure wouldn't want mine in
    there given some circumstances.

    Post them on the internet? would you like to have your pic on the internet? in
    that particular pose / unpose? I would still get a release.

    About the only time you would not have to get a release is when you get a pic of
    a crime being committed.

    take care
    MisNomer, Feb 13, 2004
  4. Carlos Moreno

    NeonKnight Guest

    I wonder how the Paparazzi are able to take unwanted photos of celebrities
    and then sell the photos to gossip magazines? I'm sure that those
    celebrities are not going to be feeling real cooperative at the time. I
    would really like to see the actual laws that pertain to this.
    NeonKnight, Feb 13, 2004
  5. Carlos Moreno

    JME Guest

    I belive that its a context issue, if a person is standing on a street
    corner and you take there picture, you can do as you wish as long as you do
    not misrepresent the individual in the picture ie Picture title "person
    standing", or "hooker on the street corner". If the person was not a hooker
    than you are in trouble. The model release is to ensure that the you can use
    the image freely and in whatever context you wish.. But ......
    JME, Feb 13, 2004
  6. Carlos Moreno

    Alan Kerr Guest

    AFAIK as long as it is not used for commercial purposes it is fine to
    take photos of anyone in public

    Alan Kerr, Feb 13, 2004
  7. Carlos Moreno

    MisNomer Guest

    And those celebrities were pissed off too... and I think the golden rule still

    Then there are those camera phones, apparently they are banned at the university

    take care
    MisNomer, Feb 13, 2004
  8. Carlos Moreno

    Mike Guest

    I think that everyone so far has been kind of close but off the mark, the
    issue is actually fairly well covered by law in most places and is tagged
    onto the concept of surveillance and law enforcement. The same legal
    directives that allow for the surveillance of public space (remember all of
    those pretty little cameras placed up for your safety?) basically blanket
    assume that if you are IN public then anything you are involved in IS
    public. It's pretty straightforward. There are levels of morality involved,
    to be sure... but rest assured that it would be a personal and not legal
    issue. Naturally, I'm speaking about it from a Canadian standpoint...
    depending upon where you are there might be more or less legal protection
    against this type of invasion. If you were using a zoom to peek into a
    private residence, however, it would be a different story. But also keep in
    mind that the same laws which say that you can't stroll around in your front
    yard buck naked allow for grey areas of privacy even on obviously private

    On an individual issue I think that you have the right to take the
    photograph and the suject involved has the right to get pissed off about it.
    As people you'd just have to work it all out like adults.

    Mike, Feb 13, 2004
  9. Carlos Moreno

    howard Guest

    yard buck naked allow for grey areas of privacy even on obviously private

    As far as I understand, (in the UK)

    It's ok to photograph people in public , even without the
    knowledge of the subject.

    It's ok to publish those images.

    If you want to *broadcast* (via TV) those images taken
    secretly, you'll need their permission.

    That why a lot of undercover documentaries have mug shots
    pixilated, the people in them haven't given permission.

    howard, Feb 13, 2004
  10. Carlos Moreno

    longshot Guest

    you have the right to take the picture, but not the right to show publish it
    or display it publicly...???

    I think if you are taking pictures of minors & going home to crank one off
    while looking at it, you may find some laws forbidding that.
    longshot, Feb 13, 2004
  11. Carlos Moreno

    howard Guest

    No. Otherwise every newspaper on the planet would be screwed.

    What *you* get up to is your business ! ;-)
    howard, Feb 13, 2004
  12. Carlos Moreno

    Alex Guest

    Sure but not in the US, Canada, or the UK.

    AFAIK, in all three countries (UK being less restrictive than what

    1. If you're in a public place - anyone has the right to take your
    picture without a release.

    2. They are able to display said picture as part of an editorial or as
    art without a release.

    3. They need a release if the picture is to be used as part of an
    advertisement (as long as you're recognizable) or for any other kind
    of commercial purpose.

    4. You need a very good release if the picture (used as art or even
    editorial purposes) humiliates the person (their face with the word
    "Prostitute" printed under it).
    Alex, Feb 13, 2004
  13. Carlos Moreno

    Chris Guest

    And those tabloids often find themselves in lawsuits. I'm sure this guy
    would like to spend more time taking pictures than embroiled in litigation.
    Paparazzi are "able" to take these photos because, obviously, many tabloid
    publications are not officially recognized members of the press, and many do
    not bother asking for signed release forms.

    One disadvantage in the celeb not signing the release form, is that without
    written documentation, it's often difficult to prove who shot which photo.
    Many paparazzi are paid cash, many are also paid without direct reference to
    their having taken the shot. They aren't interested in photo royalties,
    mainly the quick and steady payoff. Of course, unlike the regular
    photo-journalist, paparazzi are usually more daring, adventure-seeking, and
    more often willing to do "whatever it takes" not to get a good photo, but to
    get a very revealing or scandalous photo.
    Chris, Feb 13, 2004
  14. Carlos Moreno

    Chris Guest

    Of course, as they are making money from your image.
    I'm shaky on this one. Newspapers constantly print photos of prostitutes
    and their "johns" down here in Florida. I very much doubt the john is going
    to sign a photo release so his affairs can be shown off like that,
    especially if he's married and his wife might sometime see the newspaper.
    Chris, Feb 13, 2004
  15. Carlos Moreno

    Norman Worth Guest

    The actual legal status depends on the country and sometimes the locality
    where you are. In the US, it is generally legal to take such photos and to
    use them as long as it doesn't harm or defame the subject. But the person
    photgraphed may object strenuously, which could cause an unfortunate
    situation. It's common courtesy to ask first. Within reasonable limits and
    for non-commercial purposes, it's generally OK as long as aren't obnoxious.
    Norman Worth, Feb 13, 2004
  16. Carlos Moreno

    Nick G Guest

    You do? So if you take a photograph for a competition in a sports stadium,
    everybody in the crowd has to sign a release?

    Somehow, I think not
    Nick G, Feb 13, 2004
  17. Carlos Moreno

    Nick G Guest


    Regarding the legal question, where in the world are you posting from?
    Nick G, Feb 13, 2004
  18. Carlos Moreno

    Alex Guest

    Maybe they're counting on the john in question being too timid to sue.
    They might be protected if they just discuss "the problem" of
    prostitution with a picture next to it as long as they don't say
    "Here's an example of what we're talking about" or something similar.
    Alex, Feb 13, 2004
  19. Carlos Moreno

    MisNomer Guest

    lol... thats one way to meet people!

    Seriously though all the contests that I have seen require that releases be
    signed by the model, if there is a model. The sports competion would not have a

    take care
    MisNomer, Feb 14, 2004
  20. Carlos Moreno

    The Dave© Guest

    Not a lawyer, as they say, but I believe if it's a random group shot, a
    model release is not necessary. If the focus (no pun intended) is on a
    particular person, and they are recognizable, then you would need a
    model release. There would most certainly be exceptions, I'm sure.
    There seems to be in every facet of law.
    The Dave©, Feb 14, 2004
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