View Full Version : Publishing Photographs with people - Canada

02-04-2014, 01:03 AM
Hi all,

So I just finished up a photography project from the past year and I am a little confused, however, about the laws in my country: Canada.
I've done some reading up but can't seem to find a concrete answer. The issue is that I've taken quite a few street photos with people in them. Sometimes the people are prominent and you can identify, other times they are in groups and may not be easy to identify.

I think in the USA the rule of thumb is that if it's in the public (and people haven't secluded themselves privacy) then it's almost fair game. However, it sounds like Canada may not necessary allow this in the same way??

I would love to hear your thoughts on this as I'm really passionate about documenting people and places all around me. I know making the photos is no problem but if I can't publish it then it's almost like my work is secluded for only my own viewing?


02-04-2014, 07:02 AM
This might be of interest to you http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/1998/1998canlii817/1998canlii817.html it relates to Quebec as Quebec has special rules regarding the publication of images. and http://blog.privacylawyer.ca/2010/04/some-thoughts-on-street-photography.html for the rest of canada.

"Journalistic, artistic and literary" expression are excluded from the need to require a release. But in court you have to prove the artistic merits of your work. It's also important to note that if you publish the work for yourself one or a few copies for your friends than this doesn't count as commercial the release is required for commercial use not private use. If you publish the work for monetary gain and you cannot prove journalistic (has to be news), artistic or literary expresion than you have to get a release.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
02-04-2014, 10:08 AM
I cannot speak for BC, but here in Québec there is only one way to publish pictures with people on it: have everybody who's recognizable have a signed model release. There is no such thing as artistic or literary justifications.

The only exception to this is when you are doing newsworthy items: if you can demonstrate that your photograph is a witness of something deemed of public interest, then you can skip the model release.

Concretely, it means that street photography as an art form is legally impossible without consent or people seen from the back. It does not mean it's impossible: some time ago I did just that, stopping people on the street and having them sign releases:


02-04-2014, 12:17 PM
MDR: Thank you for providing links. These are very useful.

02-09-2014, 10:14 PM
Thanks all for the advice. I did read about the Quebec case which, as far as I can tell, means that any recognition of a person in the image means a model release. Wow.
It makes me wonder all the people who could be technically "sued" because of the images on the internet... and I'm not talking street photography per se but cell phone images, instagram, etc.

Anyways, from what I can read from all this, it sounds like it's still a bit of a grey area in that I'd have to justify it being "artistic expression" in the court if an action were to be taken... so it could go either way. I guess I'll just have to ensure I don't publish it and make it public record (aka sell the book in Chapters) and maybe just keep a copy for myself and maybe a friend or two...

02-10-2014, 01:02 AM