Legal Issue (HELP)

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by lenny_dotson, Jan 27, 2006.

  1. Hello to all,

    I�m new to the use of the web. I take pictures of sporting event
    that my children participate in on regular bases. We as better
    photographer then the moms and dads that sit on the side lines with
    their little Kodak instamatic cameras that never gets excellent
    shots of their kids.

    I take pictures of my kids, their team mates and sometimes of the
    other team�s kids. Most of the time people ask me what newspaper you
    work for because that camera you have sure is a big one. I introduce
    myself as the parent of one of the children on the field explaining
    to them that it�s no trouble for me to shoot 100�s of shots of all
    the kids for all the parents to enjoy. Then I give a business card
    with the web address so the parents can go and see the action shots.

    I post no names associated with the kids on my sight. My website
    links them to my Shutterfly Pro account where they can purchase any
    pictures they like. I do make a couple bucks for each photo sold.
    The sight can be password protected, and I have all the customers
    information associated with each photograph purchased.

    I have a parent that E-Mailed and threatened me that she was going
    to the notify FBI and local Police of my actions. She said I
    received no authorization to take photos of her child and post them
    on the web for everyone to see and purchase. She feels that her
    child�s privacy was violated.

    My question to for my fellow collogues is am I breaking any laws? If
    so please advise..

    Lenny Dotson
    Snap Image Studios
  2. This is not legal advice dot net. You need to retain a lawyer.
  3. From my knowledge (what I was taught at school), you need to get permission from
    parents to photograph their children (under 18). I'm sure the mom is overreacting but it's
    her legal right to protect her children. It could be that she is in a witness protection
    program or her childs whereabouts are being protected from an abusive person. Who
    knows? Best to get written permission from the parent before you post photos on the web.
    I'm sure that a lawyer would know the laws in whatever country you are in. Best to get in
    touch with one, although it sounds like this mom is just trying to scare you, or not.
  4. Remove the photos and get a lawyer, the above post presents a great reason why--second reason: avoid legal battles at all costs. Good luck.

  5. I am located in New Jersey.
  6. The way I understand it is that in a public place, there is no expectation of privacy, therefore you can take pictures. Obviously you should talk to a lawyer though.
  7. This is one example of 'digital' may bite you in the rear-end....

    If you show up at a sporting event with a handfull of 4x6 prints, the parent can buy shots of their sports star. But on the Internet, you take a risk. [As noted above, no parent's signature on a release is not a keen idea when it comes to posting images on the web-site of your financial gain.] The 'release' lets the parent OK or not OK the use of your images of their kid.

    Good luck.
  8. I don't know the answer to your questions, but I have a question for those offering advice that you have no legal concern. Why wouldn't a model release be required in this case?

    The subjects are recognizable. The intended use is not editorial. The photographer is selling the images. What am I missing?
  9. "The photographer is selling the images." But to whom? If a parent objects to the fact that their child's image is on the web site (self-promotion for the photographer) that may be considered commercial use of the image.

    ...not exactly legal advice but common sense.
  10. I would love to remove the photo of her child, but the lady will not Identify the imiges in question. I did shut down the link to the photos. All the photos are not viewed now.

    I have other parents on the other teams asking why they can't see the pictures of their kids now. How do I please everybody?
  11. why dont you passwor protect your site and hand out the password to the parents who want to see the pics? that way everyones happy
  12. Mr. Dotson:

    From your website it is clear that you are doing event photography as a business. Event photographers usually obtain permission from event organizers before taking photographs for sale.

    Businesses are required by law to be responsive to complaints, and in most cases it is best to placate people if you can. However if they complain anonymously and with little information then there is not much you can do.

    Every business receives legal threats from time to time, and you should have a lawyer to consult with. But it is too costly to consult with a lawyer about every little complaint, so I recommend a reply like the following:

    Dear <concerned>:

    I received your letter of ___ threatening legal action against me. However I feel that I know the laws governing my business and I think that the complaint you raised is not sufficient for me to change my business practices at this time. If you give me more specific proof of damages and have your attorney cite legal grounds for complaint then I will review the matter with my own attorney.

    Should you choose not to pursue legal remedy but you still feel truly injured by my business, then if you provide me with more specific details of your complaint I will welcome the chance to discuss the matter with you further.

    Regards, etc.
  13. "Businesses are required by law to be responsive to complaints"


    Don't listen to this guy.

    As most have suggested, hire a lawyer. This is not a legal advice forum.

  14. Assuming you still have the e-mail, you should be able to determine which child is the one of concern. It's an extraordinarily common practice - and yet I have some concerns how it might play out in my state and depending on the nature of your website, etc. "Everybody does it." won't be an adequate excuse if you've run afoul of the privacy/publicity laws in your locale. I'd suggest finding out which child it is and just removing the one in question. And consult a local attorney to find out just what the laws are in your state as to how you may use other people's images in your business endeavors.

    (If I had to guess, I'd expect you'd find a lot of lawyers who are good amateur photographers and a much lower percentage of photographers who are competent amateur lawyers.)
  15. "(If I had to guess, I'd expect you'd find a lot of lawyers who are good amateur photographers and a much lower percentage of photographers who are competent amateur lawyers.)"

    Would that that were true. I write most of my own contracts, because the contracts I got from lawyers weren't nearly as inclusive as I wanted them to be. I have every contract I write checked out by a lawyer, and in each case there are perhaps four things that I knew about and the lawyer didn't as opposed to two things the lawyer knew about that I didn't. Unfortunately the industry lawyers I've used have turned out to be very lazy and sloppy and forgetful. I hope I've just hooked into a bad batch, and that most of the rest are actually helpful, but frankly I'm not too optimistic on the matter.

    Keep in mind that in terms of salary and benefits, the average lawyer earns less than the average New York City sanitation worker. I mean, how smart can you be if you spend all that money and time and stress on law school and then end up in a financial situation like that?

    On the other hand, I haven't found one lawyer who knew something about photography that I didn't already know.

    Happy shooting. -BC-
  16. Thanks to all,
    I know or we should all know this site was not to be used as the all mighty gospel. The web site is just a place for us to vent (a form of entertainment) and maybe get better ideas from each other. I feel that most photographers have a sense of brotherhood to the profession.

    I have tutored students in the past, given out scholarship money to the local high school as an inspiring photographer award. Every event that is attended by our children we give back a percentage of the revenue received to only make the program better for the kids. Please continue to send your thoughts and comments for this is not the end of the road.

    I have looked at many other web sites, contacted other owners of those sites here in New Jersey explaining the situation and basically they say the same thing, no harm no foul. These companies are photographing large sports event from Peewee to Teens and take thousands of pictures and don�t have a Model Release for any person. These companies are doing the same thing; they do have parents that complain their child was photographed, placed on the web without the permission of the parent or legal guardian. All the photography company does is simply removing the photos in question and all is well.

    What we need to know as photographers are we all doing this right, are we violating the parents� or the child rights to privacy?

    When you play a sport for a league do we give up the right of privacy as a parent for our child?

    Are there any laws telling us we can or can not sell the photos to anyone? The intent was to supply parents with professional pictures of their kids at reasonable costs. The photos are viewed for 30 days before they are removed. If a parent is not happy they are removed ASAP (when they identify them).

    I wouldn�t think some parent from the league would not purchase photos of my kid playing soccer. I think if some Perv from the area had his or her camera they would take the pictures themselves, it would be much cheaper for them.

    What I�m saying is �when your child is running up and down the battle field you don�t know who is photographing them, and there is nothing we can do about it.�

    What if the Perv takes the films to the local department store for development then takes them and makes a collogue out of them and hangs them in the local truck stop diner, or takes the images home and up-loads them to the World Wide Web. Then to be distributed as he or she wants and you still have no knowledge of this ever happening.

    You can E-Mail me and I will send you the link to see the web site to see for yourself.

    I have retained legal representation in my state of New Jersey to review this matter. I will continue to inform the thread of the progress.

    Thanks for listening
    Lenny Dotson
    Snap Image Studios.

    Carolyn............ I checked out the website I might attend.......
  17. The problem with legal issues is that there are some fairly standard general principles but things could get ugly when it comes down to the individual circumstances and local laws. California law isn't the same as New Jersey law, etc. And that's where local legal advice becomes necessary - I can read the Ca. Civil Codes and see what they say about publicity, read the on-line practioners guide, etc. And then see what seems to be a vast difference between what the law says and what is happening with posted galleries. Law evolves with case law, with periodic revisions from the legislatures, etc. The lawyers deal with that.

    But you can do some easy research and find a variety of sites which offer basic legal guidance (as opposed to specific legal advice on a specific situation). Some are prepared by lawyers, some by major photographic organizations supporting their membership interests, etc. You'll usually find these sites point out that you can't depend on the information with respect to an actual case or set of circumstances and they they aren't providing legal representation as such. Then there are some sites offering interesting advice from a photographer given as concrete and dependable with no caveats.

    Current law essentially is that when a person is in a public place, with no reasonable expectation of privacy, you can take their picture. (Keep in mind that "reasonable" often depends on case law or may require a jury to decide - what you think is reasonable may not mean that others think it is.) However, the individual has the right to control the use of their image commercially. What that means does move around some from state to state. If I were offering images of individuals for sale, I'd certainly seek local legal advice.

    Does an individual participating in sports give up some rights? Probably - all entry forms for a variety of events I've seen recently have released the organizers to use pictures for the organizers use. But that doesn't mean they have released outside shooters to use participants pictures for other uses.

    But the only reliable way to get good legal advice as in "What law applies to xxxxx?" or "Did I break a law here by doing yyyyy?" is to ask a competent local lawyer. The only way to be sure a contract or release is legally adequate in your area is, ask a lawyer. None of that will ensure that you won't have legal trouble but it should minimize it.
  18. I apologise, I can offer no legal help with this problem. My Name is Matthew Hardy and I am currently working on my disertation for my degree and would like to request some help.

    The title for my disertation is as follows ' Regardless of intent a childs photograph is seen as pornographic'

    Society has evolved to a point where taking a photograph of a child is viewed as pornographic, regardless of the intent of the photographer.

    I would appreciate it if people could follow the link provided to help complete a survey that I have constructed to research this problem.

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