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This question poses, admittedly, a difficult to answer question, but one that I actually think is relevant to photographers.

I just saw my children in a photograph on the wall of a chain restaurant. What rights do I have to protect their image?

I think the FAQ narrows the field a little much in the way that it's worded. Photography includes things like licenses, model releases, heck, even modelling. I'm just thinking that maybe we're a little too concerned with the one aspect of the picture as it were.

Thoughts?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can we edit the question to reflect that this question is primarily discussing if legal issues are on topic? I'm not sure if that was the original intent, but it seems to be what it has developed in to and seems to be a valuable discussion. If we want to have a broader discussion, I think it should probably be held separate from the question of legal advice questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson Mod
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AJHenderson - I linked an example, but I still think it's a general question. Maybe I'll clean up the title, I asked it late at night... At any rate, I think the FAQ may be worded to discourage questions that we actually want. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 18:00

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The problem with questions like that is that there is far too much variation between jurisdictions, and the answers will require constant maintenance as intellectual property and privacy laws change. Even in the answer pointed to, there are some huge problems, in that the laws governing usage are state laws in the US, not federal (as copyright would be). Similarly, in Canada, privacy laws and personal likeness usage rights are mostly a provincial concern.

(By the way, folks, grabbing model/property release forms online or from an office supply outlet, photo store, or what have you, without having them vetted against local law can be dangerous. Not only do things like the age of consent vary wildly, terms like "good" and "valuable" in relation to consideration can bite you on the bum. Something that can be satisfied with a nominal buck or TFP in one jurisdiction may legally necessitate a substantial payment in another.)

In any case, all of this strays dangerously close to the realm of legal advice, and despite all of the IANAL disclaimers and so forth, people relying on any advice other than a "consult a competent lawyer" boilerplate are going to be led astray, either filing claims that will eventually see them paying the other party's costs or exposing themselves to legitimate and costly lawsuits. We should stay as far away from it as possible, IMHO.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't necessarily disagree, but I do think there are potential general answers that are of interest in a broader jurisdiction which is why I posted here. My question was also driven by looking at the FAQ, it's examples for what are on topic seems to be fairly restrictive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 10:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with Stan Rodgers on this one. There is a strong and established reason for avoiding any kind of legal advice on Stack Exchange. It is by definition too localized and no matter how general you try to make it, almost invariably, it isn't accurate in some crazy jurisdiction somewhere. In addition to being heavily localized, it's entirely too risky that someone may go off and act on potentially bad legal advice and could do real harm and possibly even try to come after a poster. It simply isn't generally useful enough to be worth the risks of bad things happening. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson Mod
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC: I think it is restrictive for a very good reason. This gets messy and fast. Exclusion is much easier, especially when the original FAQ was created. It may be vetted further based on an outcome in this thread though. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt - I would agree. However, I've noticed a high closure trend lately and I was starting to think that we may be self-limiting here and maybe a refresh of the FAQ would help to spark some growth. Legal questions are walking a fine line, but I thought Michael handled it really well and that led to this meta post. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 2:33
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Let's add "history of photography".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I added this to the FAQ for now, let's see how it plays out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 2:50
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Let's add "photography in society", or something along those lines. (Wording?)

This would cover the rights issues without being specifically a legal forum. And it'd cover photography-as-art concerns What makes this Eggleston picture great? as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Added this one too... \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 2:51
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As others have pointed out, there is no one correct answer to any legal question. Every case is tried on its own merits. Judicial decisions can sometimes seem totally arbitrary. Even in a single jurisdiction precedent can be, and often has been, overturned. Lower court decisions may be overturned by an appeals court, and then reversed again by an even higher court.

That does not mean, however, that there are not general principles that have been established over the course of time with which one might reasonably predict the outcome of certain actions and act accordingly in order to avoid being on the wrong end of a legal proceeding. We don't need to consult an attorney to understand that there is no expectation of privacy in a public place under U.S. Law. It is well established by numerous courts in numerous jurisdictions in a wide variety of cases that address a myriad of issues. Likewise, while the particulars of common law conventions such as Right of Publicity may vary from one jurisdiction to the next (or even from one end of the courthouse to the other), there are some general understandings that can help guide our decisions.

I would like to think that a careful reading of my answer to the question which precipitated this discussion doesn't advise anyone to do anything other than consult appropriate counsel for any specific situation. It does introduce possible scenarios in which the original questioner may have granted permission for the photographing of her children at a public event and the subsequent use of that photo. It does not advise anyone that placing a legal disclaimer on a ticket or a posted sign guarantees they can't be sued for using someone's picture without their explicit permission, it just points out that the practice of such is a common one that in general has been recognized by some courts as sufficient notice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your answer was very good :) \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 23:43
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I think that was a very interesting question and Michael Clark gave a good synopsis of all the main talking points. But he asked a lot of questions and used a lot of ifs, and couldn't in the end really give an answer. Like the photographing of young children question, it's bound to lead to loads of comments and discussion and not get anywhere.

I voted to close because I thought it was not definitively answerable. I may have voted "off topic", not sure, but I just didn't think it's a question we can answer, other than tell them to consult a lawyer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree that the questions and "ifs" detract from the answer. IMO, it's raising those issues and contingencies that makes the answer general enough to belong here, and useful to other people in similar (but not identical) situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 12:48
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I'm not sure I agree with the premise that the FAQ, in its current form, excludes legal issues pertaining to photography. The first "on-topic" bullet point in the FAQ is simply "Photography." I would consider legal issues pertaining to photography to fall under that topic, just as I would consider the history of photography or business practices in photography to fall under that topic. (None of these topics are listed in the "off-topic" list.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, perhaps some more examples of on/off topic would be useful there. I would tend to want to discourage broad legal questions, for the reasons Stan noted, but not necessarily rule them out if we can get a good response. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 13:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Arguing that the first bullet point is "Photography" so everything that can be construed as related to photography is thus on topic is not a great way to make any progress here. The FAQ and all of it's points do not exist in a vacuum. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt The title and text of the question have changed; it initially started from the premise that the question was off topic per the language of the FAQ. Similarly, in the comments to that question, mattdm treated it as plainly off-topic, per the FAQ. I disagreed with starting from that assumption. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 23:55
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Since "photo critiques" is explicitly in the off-topic, I'd like to have something to balance that in the on-topic column as discussed at Can we re-open the door to something a little like photo critique?, because general consensus actually seem to be we do allow critique, but it needs to focused.

I'd rather the off-topic section say "open-ended requests for photo-critique" and on-topic say "improving an aspect of a photograph".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea, with a focus on technique people can learn from it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't actually add this to the FAQ. The off topic says no critique, but the on topic talks to technique. Perhaps a well-phrased clarification or example there might make it work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ JoanneC: Hmmm; the bold text in this answer is as well-phrased as I can think of. I don't think the FAQ is working as it stands. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair, so going with the other thread, which seems to have substantial support, I updated the FAQ. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 17:12

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