When to put or not to put portraits and candids into the public domain?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by MARTIE, May 8, 2006.

  1. MARTIE

    MARTIE Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    I have always been very interested in "portraiture" in the broadest sense although I shoot "landscapes" 99% of the time.
    So I'm now in the process of taking many more portraits and candids of which I would like to place in the public domain via the internet, an exhibition etc.

    I'm mostly interested in the experiences, feedback and responses that people have had towards "publishing" images of family, friends, relatives and of total strangers, if it's ever happened.

    So, when is it ethical or unethical to take images of others with the clear intention of placing them into the public domain without their consent, permission, or approval and that are not neccessarily flattering etc.?


    Martie
     
  2. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Get model releases. Less headache in the long run.
     
  3. Roger Krueger

    Roger Krueger Member

    Messages:
    148
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Depends on where you are. In the U.S. no one's really gotten burned yet, diCorcia probably spent a lot in legal fees winning his case, but he was getting $10k-$20k a print, he could afford it.

    If you're not making huge money like diCorcia you're just not an attractive target for a lawsuit--no lawyer is going to put the time required into a case for a few hundred dollars.

    You're especially unlikely to face litigation if you simply remove the offending piece from further displays upon complaint. This is a little tougher for a book project though...

    Do beware of anything defaming, humiliating, or that could be considered an invasion of privacy. Those CAN lead to big damages. but they're also pretty easy to avoid.

    France and Quebec have both had cases where photographers lost, they're definitely "no-street-sales" zones. My understanding is that Anglophone Canada is different than Quebec in this area, but, as an American my understanding of Canada is pretty suspect.
     
  4. MARTIE

    MARTIE Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Flash;
    I can see the logic in the model release. But surely if you wave an official looking document under someones nose and you ask for a signature you're going to get a flat refusal, especially if you're not paying them?

    Roger;
    Thanks for the legal perspective, I'm always pleased to be made aware of the level headed and commercially minded aspects to this. Not being so business savvy myself.

    Although, I'm more concerned with the clash of private, personal and professional interests, when taking and displaying images that will be in the public domain without approval from the person who it most affects.
     
  5. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,299
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If it's a portrait, I always get a model release. The release clearly states that I can self promote by placing pics on the internet - my website and my online galleries. This is a common practice.

    Now if it's street photography, where I have shot peple who are in a public place, this one's a dicey ones since the 'law' is a different than most people's sense of privacy and personal space when it comes to their image. I'd put it on the web as well. No model release.

    As a rule, I generally take pics of people who want to have their pics taken.

    Regards, Art.
     
  6. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Consent and compensation, I think are the key issues. Anything that's going commercial, you need to get everything straightened out as others have already mentioned here.

    Keep yourself available and reachable for the future claims if there are. Don't grant or share the rights of your photographs that you current hold to other people like book publishers if things are not clear.

    That was my concern, too when I self-published a tiny book in Japan, and I selected non-human photos for that matter just to be safe because I wasn't too sure about the law over here, which is years behind the west.

    So, don't rush to decide for your prestige work!
     
  7. Cheryl Jacobs

    Cheryl Jacobs Member

    Messages:
    1,717
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2003
    Location:
    Denver, Colo
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Marty, I've never had anyone refuse to sign a model release. It's not a big deal to them unless you make it feel like a big deal.

    I do get people's consent, however I don't make compensation in most cases. People are usually flattered that they or their children are so attractive that you want to publish pictures of them. I've never had anyone get creeped out about it, especially because I always explain that no personal details about them will be disclosed outside of first names and possibly the general geographical area, i.e. Venice, Italy. People are generally very reasonable about these things.

    As far as street photography, in the US the key is that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when in public, so street shots of people are usually untouchable. If you photographed them sleeping on the sidewalk, it's fair game; if you photographed them sleeping in a private hedged-in backyard hammock by climbing over the hedge and stalking your prey, it's probably not fair game. I believe the law is similar in Canada, but don't take my word for it.
     
  8. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    That's the trick. In street photography, people can be pretty savy about the potential profit that can be generated by your photographs. So, to be fair, treat your photo subjects rather as friends, not some models you asked permission for in your studio.

    I think it's matter of how well you communicate and maintain your relationship with other people.

    But at the same time, some kind of release form as a record is, I think necessary, too.
     
  9. rbarker

    rbarker Member

    Messages:
    2,222
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    Rio Rancho,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Not to quibble over semantics, Martie, but publishing images on your Web site doesn't make them "public domain" - just public. You still retain the copyright, and control the images, as I'm confident you're aware.

    I agree with the other suggestions regarding model releases. The approach can be as simple as, "I'd like to put our results up on my Web page. If that's OK with you, would you mind signing this model release?" Although we probably have the right to use our images for self promotion under the law (at least in the U.S.), Web publication can push the question into the gray area. Thus, having a model release solves the problem. The "standard" form can also be modified to include non-commercial usage provisions, if that makes your subjects more comfortable.
     
  10. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have offered (and followed through) occasionall to send an 8x10 print to a signed release and provided address. Just a perk for their cooperation.