[WEB4LIB] Re: Permissions from People in Photos

Michael Samuelson mlsamuel at isl.state.id.us
Mon May 9 18:48:23 EDT 2005

> Could you post a summary of responses to the list?

At the bottom of this message, I've included the single piece of
on-topic correspondence I received off-list.  But first...

After my "thanks for the help" email, I did pose my question to my
agency's PIO and received the following responses, which have changed my
thinking for our situation, as the photos in question were taken at
exhibits where there is no expectation of privacy, no monetary gain to
be acquired by the images, and no minors present.  Ours are photos from
book exhibits, and when the folks posed for the photos, the purpose of
the photos was understood.  So, current photos will remain, and for
future photos, we'll seek more explicit permission from the subjects.


Response 1: "We have been looking into issue at our library as well.
After speaking with our local newspaper regarding their photo policies
we understand that while on public property (such as a library) it is
legal to photograph people attending programs and events for the purpose
of related promotion.  You may want to discuss this with a lawyer or
legal aid in your area to clarify the circumstances for your library.

We have had a couple of instances where parents have called to request
their child's photo not be used because they were avoiding an abusive
spouse. To respect these sensitive cases, we make every attempt to be
responsible and provide notice by putting up posters outside program
rooms to notify parents and care givers that a photographer will be
present and will take photos for possible use in library promotions
including our Library Guide and website. At that point  the parent is
encouraged to notify us if they do not wish themselves or their child to
be photographed. 

The vast majority of people are pleased to be included in our local
publication and request copies for family members. But there are serious
legitimate reasons why people don't want their photographs published and
this must be respected. In our case, open verbal communication and clear
signage seems to work.  Should you go the route of release forms there
are various samples available on the Internet. We looked into this
before making our decision."

Response 2: I'm not current on actual laws, but I seem to recall that:

1. There is no "expectation of privacy" in a public place, so it's
legally OK to take "news" photos

2. Indeed, as one respondent pointed out, you may have people who have
legitimate reasons for not wanting to have their pictures taken, so it
is best to get permission, and respect the wishes of anyone who doesn't
want to be included in the pictures.

3. The level of permission needed is in part contingent on:
    -- the age of the subject (i.e., a minor)
    -- the intended use of the photo:
        * promoting your library in your own publications, vs.
        * selling that great shot to Hollywood or Madison Avenue for

In theory, as long as you're not going to make a profit or use the image
for commercial purposes--or sell prints as 'art'--you are not doing the
subject financial harm.  On the other hand, if you DO profit from the
photo, you owe subjects some form of "consideration" for the rights to
use their faces."
Received off-list:

We always ask permission. Especially for children, whose pictures appear

often in the local newspaper. However, recently I walked out and saw
soldiers, all in uniform and in a row, sitting at our four Gates
so I asked them if I could take their pictures. I told them that I was
old to serve, but I could serve by providing internet service to the 

I am constantly amazed at the people who don't want their pictures in
paper. I think they must be the same people who have unlisted phone

Michael Samuelson
Web Developer, Idaho State Library
(208) 334-2150 ext.248
mlsamuel at isl.state.id.us 

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Mutch [mailto:amutch at waterford.lib.mi.us] 
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 10:46 AM
To: Michael Samuelson
Subject: Re: [WEB4LIB] Re: Permissions from People in Photos


Could you post a summary of responses to the list?

Andrew Mutch

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