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Author Topic: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights  (Read 5572 times)

FrankG

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'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« on: October 05, 2012, 08:26:36 PM »

Can anyone tell me what the law is pertaining to the use of "street photographs" in which the people are recognizable? The photos are not to be used to promote a product or service but may be for sale in a gallery, published in a magazine, or in a limited run 'portfolio' book (self-published rather than commercial publishing/distribution). I am in Canada but would
be interested to know about the US, UK & other countries too.

There is the famous lawsuit (New York) brought by a subject against Philip Corcia diLorca. The man not knowing he was being photographed on the street, objected to prints being sold in a gallery and profit being made off them. To him that was 'commercial use'. The court ruled in favour of the photographer.

And of course all the 'journalistic' work done by all the photographers with Magnum and many other picture agencies. There is no way that they are carrying model release forms and stopping the street activity to ask for signatures.

What's the scoop?

Thanks
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WalterEG

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2012, 08:50:37 PM »

Frank,

It is not something with which I am intimately familiar but what I do know is that the law changes from country to country.  Perhaps consultation with a lawyer specialising in intellectual property or privacy might be money well spent.

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IanBrowne

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2012, 09:04:59 PM »

I believe in Aust; and stress "I believe", anyone can take photos of most people, places and things from a PUBLIC place. That means I can photograph someones home from the street. I can walk in a street blazing away and everyone in that street is fair game

If someone "important" was prominently  displayed in a photo it may make sense to contact that person before using that photo in a display/gallery. Sadly there seems to be too many hungry and greedy lawyers around these days. 

I really believe the recent photography of Kate and William will have an impact on "street" photographers in the future.

There are lot of restriction of photography at beaches; schools, school sports and some buildings. Someone with a big white 500mm lens above the beach will get the move on order. Hopefully someone like me with a  Panasonic 200 (from next week ;)) will not be so obvious. ::)

So down here a model release should not be required for general street photography. And if someone did object, I'm sure if that photo was removed from display if requested all would be OK. LOL I would offer them the photo as a special price  ::)

I'm miles from any cities ATM but I would love to do that sort of street photography

Like most things; commonsense will keep most out of trouble.
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RSL

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2012, 09:15:59 PM »

Frank, Walter's got the right idea. You need to get legal advice from an attorney in the jurisdiction where you plan to sell or display your pictures. For a general overview of the law in the US, go to http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm and download Bert Krages's one-sheet PDF summary. The Author is an attorney and a photographer. The PDF summary is a single sheet that you can print and carry with you to hand to any rent-a-cop who gives you a problem. For more extensive coverage of the subject, check Bert's Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images. My second son is an attorney whose specialty is intellectual property and I'd like to be more specific, but I'm not in a position to give legal advice.

One more thing that Ian brought up: There's a thing called "right of publicity" that applies to celebrities (not politicians) that makes them the only ones who can release their personal likenesses. You gotta be careful about that one.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2012, 09:20:50 PM by RSL »
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Fips

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2012, 03:48:15 AM »

Quote
I am in Canada but would be interested to know about the US, UK & other countries too.

In Germany, and I believe in most parts of the EU, regulations are much more restrictive than in the US. Here you are not even allowed to take a picture of a person without his or her consent. Unless the person cannot be identified from the image. Therefore some just resort to photographing silhouettes or peoples backs. That's why you often find images of suspects or criminals in newspapers with their faces pixelated (a black bar over the eyes is not that common anymore).
There are some exceptions however: If a person is not in integral part of an image, e.g. you are shooting architecture and there's a person walking across the frame, that's not a problem. Furthermore if you attend any form of public event like a parade, fair, demonstration, or whatever you are assumed to accept the risk of being photographed.

This is not the end of all street photography though. As I mentioned, to photograph a person you need his or her consent but that does not need to be in the form of a written piece of paper or a contract. It is generally assumed that if you make you intentions clear to take a picture and your 'model' does not act in a defensive or evasive way this can be interpreted as a form of consent.
Now officially that would rule out all kinds of candid images but practically, if you take care that you subject notices you immediately afterwards and is aware of just being photographed and does not protest, you would be fine.

So all in all the situation for street photographers is rather challenging but it can be done. You just have to be honest about it (but you can't be a B. Gilden either!).
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Rob C

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2012, 04:07:00 AM »

In Germany, and I believe in most parts of the EU, regulations are much more restrictive than in the US. Here you are not even allowed to take a picture of a person without his or her consent. Unless the person cannot be identified from the image. Therefore some just resort to photographing silhouettes or peoples backs. That's why you often find images of suspects or criminals in newspapers with their faces pixelated (a black bar over the eyes is not that common anymore).
There are some exceptions however: If a person is not in integral part of an image, e.g. you are shooting architecture and there's a person walking across the frame, that's not a problem. Furthermore if you attend any form of public event like a parade, fair, demonstration, or whatever you are assumed to accept the risk of being photographed.

This is not the end of all street photography though. As I mentioned, to photograph a person you need his or her consent but that does not need to be in the form of a written piece of paper or a contract. It is generally assumed that if you make you intentions clear to take a picture and your 'model' does not act in a defensive or evasive way this can be interpreted as a form of consent.
Now officially that would rule out all kinds of candid images but practically, if you take care that you subject notices you immediately afterwards and is aware of just being photographed and does not protest, you would be fine.
So all in all the situation for street photographers is rather challenging but it can be done. You just have to be honest about it (but you can't be a B. Gilden either!).



Boy, that's one wide open to argument! How on Earth could you prove the point one way or the other?

Rob C

stamper

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2012, 04:41:55 AM »

I walked by a house yesterday with my camera in hand and a dog barked. I looked at the house and recognized it as a friend's house and kept walking and not taking an image of the property. I then stop a few yards further on and took shots of a tree with autumn colours. Meanwhile a women had left the house and challenged me about looking at the house and asking what I was photographing? I told her I was in a public place and doing no wrong. It didn't placate her. I asked her if she was the wife of the person I knew which she replied yes but her husband wasn't in. This settled everything down. Afterwards I wondered that if I was up to no good then the women was in danger by leaving her house in what was a quiet street with nobody else about. I could have mugged her and entered her house. Her lack of photographic rights had put her in danger. :o

Fips

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2012, 05:32:27 AM »

Quote
Boy, that's one wide open to argument! How on Earth could you prove the point one way or the other?

I don't see what's so complicated about this. It more or less boils down to common sense. Make your intentions obvious. If someone seems not interested in being photographed - don't do it. If that person seems not to care or even gives you a smile, then go ahead. When to try to photograph someone stealthily you are potentially(!) in trouble.

The underlying ideas is the personal right that everyone should be able to decide on his own if and in what context images of his person should be published or not.
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Rob C

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2012, 09:26:28 AM »

I don't see what's so complicated about this. It more or less boils down to common sense. Make your intentions obvious. If someone seems not interested in being photographed - don't do it. If that person seems not to care or even gives you a smile, then go ahead. When to try to photograph someone stealthily you are potentially(!) in trouble.

The underlying ideas is the personal right that everyone should be able to decide on his own if and in what context images of his person should be published or not.


Fips, that's the problem, the difficulty: Interpretation. Were it not so, there'd be no legal profession.

Rob C

FrankG

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2012, 10:05:31 AM »

Many aspects of the infinitely variable scenarios are open to interpretation by courts according to local laws.
In my specific case, as the original poster, the people in the street scenes are not large in the frame, as they'd be in portraits, but because of their 'smallness' they lend weight to the picture, the concept,  and are thus not 'incidental' passers by. Plus they're recognisable. So they could argue privacy/harm/embarassment etc etc.
It's such a grey area and i am wondering if I can make a Blurb book and/or show/sell prints.

if you're interested you can look at my site under 'tell me a story' http://www.frankgross.com/pages/story.html,
and/or,
see a few samples or on my facebook photographer page under the album 'portfolio 1- stories'
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150729532879136.465947.163495914135&type=3
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RSL

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2012, 11:27:02 AM »

Frank, I checked your web and saw some very good street photography -- actual street photography as opposed to just photography on the street, which the majority of people who've never studied street photography think is street photography. I'd love to see a book of your stuff. It's good.

I can't talk about the laws in any country but the US, but Bert Krages's book will tell you that in the US you're generally on solid ground if your pictures are being published in an editorial context or displayed and sold as artworks. I don't have time to do it for you, but I'd bet a half day of searching on Google would turn up the information you're looking for regarding your local market. Please spend some time doing it. I'd put down a deposit for your first book of street photography right now if it were possible.

Rob C

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2012, 11:54:55 AM »

I think the pictures are very good as thumbprints, but that damned window opening up on the right-hand side of the expanded image ruins the experience so much that I gave up. Is there some way to switch it off? I'd love to go back and enjoy the larger images this time!

Rob C

FrankG

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2012, 01:18:25 PM »

Russ: Thank you so much for the compliment. Very kind words. Encouraging & appreciated.

Rob: ...are you referring to the fact that you must hover your mouse over the thumbnail to see an expanded image on my website ?

The original op question remains and I think it's one of 'privacy' rather than 'copyright'
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2012, 01:22:15 PM »

Very, very nice photography in all portfolios!

RSL

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2012, 01:33:04 PM »

The original op question remains and I think it's one of 'privacy' rather than 'copyright'

Absolutely. It has nothing to do with copyright. In the US, in general, if a person's in a place of public access or being viewed from a place of public access he has no expectation of privacy. There are limitations. If somebody's inside his house that fronts directly on the street and you're on a sidewalk outside, you have no business pushing the blind aside and shooting him inside his house from the sidewalk. There are some other limitations: you can't deliberately make somebody look ridiculous, though often it's the subject himself who's making himself look ridiculous. You can't misrepresent somebody's situation. For instance, you can't make a picture that implies a woman on the sidewalk at night is a prostitute. If she is, and if she has a sign around her neck, that's different. Most of this stuff is nothing but codification of common courtesy.

And it's privacy laws in other countries that can bite you. You need to research the local situation, preferably with an attorney, if you plan to shoot or publish in a particular locale.

FrankG

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2012, 01:36:12 PM »

Thank you Slobodan.
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Petrus

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2012, 01:36:27 PM »

In Germany, and I believe in most parts of the EU, regulations are much more restrictive than in the US. Here you are not even allowed to take a picture of a person without his or her consent.

EU countries do not have identical rules about street photography. Finland, for example, is very unrestrictive, all public places like streets, shops, shopping malls and even restaurants (all places where a person can go freely) are public places where you are free to photograph whatever you want (but not necessarily publish). Shooting pictures of people inside private buildings and yards is not allowed, making paparazzo work bit difficult). Then there are countries like France where photographing people on the street is illegal (but generally not enforced, of course). In Italy it is illegal to photograph minors, etc... Using photos for news and similar purpose is always legal, but not for commercial use (advertising).
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RSL

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2012, 01:40:07 PM »

I don't see what's so complicated about this. It more or less boils down to common sense. Make your intentions obvious. If someone seems not interested in being photographed - don't do it. If that person seems not to care or even gives you a smile, then go ahead. When to try to photograph someone stealthily you are potentially(!) in trouble.

The underlying ideas is the personal right that everyone should be able to decide on his own if and in what context images of his person should be published or not.

From what you've said, that's the situation in Germany. Happily, it's not the situation in the US. Street photography depends on catching people doing their thing when they're not posing for the camera, so it sounds as if Germany has put a stop to street photography. And it's not a question of being stealthy. Usually, when I make a street shot, the people I'm shooting are perfectly aware that I'm there, but they don't care, and usually don't notice that I've made a shot. It's something you have to learn if you're going to do street.

Makes me wonder what German newspapers and magazines do. Is all the photography in them posed?

RSL

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2012, 01:45:50 PM »

Then there are countries like France where photographing people on the street is illegal. . .

Thank Heaven that wasn't the case in HCB's day. He must be rolling over in his grave along with Kertesz, Chim, Doisneau, Ronis, Brassaļ, Marc Riboud and others.

Rob C

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Re: 'street photography' & subject's privacy rights
« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2012, 01:57:04 PM »

Russ: Thank you so much for the compliment. Very kind words. Encouraging & appreciated.

Rob: ...are you referring to the fact that you must hover your mouse over the thumbnail to see an expanded image on my website ?The original op question remains and I think it's one of 'privacy' rather than 'copyright'



No, Frank, I'm referring to the last link you give - the Facebook one, and the spread of thumbnails in it looks fine. However, when I click on one, the image opens up large, but with it, comes another rectangular window with a lot of copy in it with comments; that second window seems stuck to the right side of the photograph, and there's no way to remove it - that I've discovered so far. For me, it's so distracting it ruins your qwork.

I have not been to the first link, the website yet, because I thought the reference to the images that were being discussed came from the 'Portfolio -1 Stories' and that would be a direct connection to that Portfolio.

Rob C
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