Lately I have seen a few questions about legal aspect of photography. In particular this question about model release and copyrights. The highest rated answer for the moment is "consult a lawyer". I find this answer deeply unsatisfactory. Even more, there are good (in my opinion) answers to this question : carefully worded, emphasising that there are exceptios to the rules, that other countries have other laws, ...

It seems to me that for some obscure reason, we are afraid to answer or promote questions related to legal matters.

Yes, most of the participants on this site are not lawyers, and dont have a perfect understanding of the law. And those laws are different from one country to the next. But most of the participants are not professional photographers either. For any answer, you have to use your judgment. There is always a chance that an answer will be wrong. Why should it be different with questions related to legal matters ?

What do you think ?

  • @caleb - this might interest you
    – dpollitt
    Feb 26, 2016 at 2:03

4 Answers 4


I think it is OK as long as

  • the IANAL disclaimer is liberally applied
  • citations are provided to legitimate sources for legal advice online.
  • 5
    Agreed. Law pervades normal life but we don't use that as an excuse to run to a lawyer on every issue. It is plainly impractical. People need commonsense legal advice to guide their daily conduct and to understand where the threshold is when it is really necessary to consult a lawyer. That threshold is usually when you seriously contemplate legal action or you think you will become the target of legal action. This site can contribute to the body of commonsense legal advice related to photography and we will all be better for it.
    – labnut
    Feb 5, 2011 at 7:59
  • 3
    To continue. I have always thought that IANAL was a rather pointless convention. By default we are not lawyers (outside of legal sites) and real lawyers will give their profession so that their statements have more weight.
    – labnut
    Feb 5, 2011 at 8:03

People are skittish with legal advice because, as with medical advice, the consequences of bad advice can be disastrous. If I give bad advice on how to take a photo, the result may be that your image doesn't work. If you follow my terrible advice on a legal issue, you could end up sued for thousands of dollars (or in jail!). And, in an unlikely but sadly possible scenario, I could have the finger of blame pointed back at me.

The "IANAL" disclaimer is just a reminder of this — the wikipedia article Jeff Atwood links to is actually worth reading.


I certainly think legal questions are reasonable, assuming that they are within the site FAQ otherwise.

For instance, a legal question concerning the rights of a photographer is important and should be included. However, as others have mentioned, legal issues are very hard to answer in a general manner, so we just have to remember that if you really need legal advice then you should contact a lawyer.


I thing those question will disappear, as son as http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/24586/laws-legal-questions will be opened. Currently I see commited http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/3527/software-law but don't think question you pointed can be put there.

  • 2
    There is certainly value in a site specifically about law / legal questions. Still, I think that for a photographer, it is natural to expect that photo.s/e.com will answer all questions related to photography, even if they are also related to other topics (eg. law). The same could be said from questions about lens optics. Those questions are sometimes more about physics. Should they go to physics.s/e.com ?
    – Guillaume
    Feb 3, 2011 at 14:38
  • 2
    Like many things, this is probably left to a 'case-by-case' basis as opposed to making some sort of 'policy.' I can envision relatively 'simple' photography/law related questions with well known/researched/understood answers being able to be tackled here, but also more complex questions that might do better over on a more legally targeted site. Feb 3, 2011 at 17:44

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