The Public in the Copyright Issue
While I was photographing the cycling for the Bay Crits, I received a question, Brad said “I’d like to see your thoughts about the ‘ethics’ of publishing photos that identify individuals”, and then Heather said that she also wanted to know and asked if I could do a post on it. So for those of you are interested, I thought I would do a post on Copyright and taking photos in public.
This is one of the photos that came into question. The riders can clearly be identified, so can I publish them without their permission. The answer to that question is yes. The race takes place on a public road, and, according to our copyright laws (Australian) “A personʼs likeness is not protected by copyright.” It is generally considered fine to take photos of people when they are in public.
The only time this becomes as issue is if you are going to use that image for commercial purposes, which would mean making money from it. If you are going to do that, they you probably need to get a model release to cover yourself.
There are different rules if you ask people to sit for you or pose. Did they pay you? Did you pay them? Who owns the copyright of the photo?
Another area to consider is what is considered a public area. You can take photos of people out in the street, streets are generally considered public, but a shopping centre (mall) aren’t usually, they are owned by private companies and they allow the public to enter. I know many shopping centres don’t allow photography. The image above was taken at a market. The market is held in a public area, so it would be safe to assume that it is okay to take photographs. Though, it is nice to ask people first, but having said that, I don’t think you should feel obligated to.
Some buildings are owned by the federal, state or local governements, and would be considered public buildings, but that doesn’t mean you can go in there and take photos. Often buildings have rules about the taking of photographs and you should find out what they are.
The place Brad was concerned about was cemeteries, are they private or public? Good question, I would have thought that most are public, well the ones in this country. We don’t have many private cemeteries. By law everyone has to be buried in a public cemetery, unless special permission is gained. So you would assume that you don’t need permission to take photos of people in them, however this then raises other ethical questions, is it okay to photograph people in times of grief? Or when they are visiting people who have died? I can’t answer those questions. By law, it is probably fine, but ethically, it is a grey area.
People and peopleʼs likenesses are not protected by copyright. Sometimes, however, other areas
of law, such as defamation, can affect the circumstances in which a personʼs likeness can be used.
That is according to the law here. To find out what the Australian Copyright laws are you look up the Australian Copyright Council. They are have lots of information on copyright in Australia. Another place to check out is “Australian Street Photography Legal Issues” the legal isssues are more for NSW, but most of the laws aren’t that different from state to state.
So, for those of you who aren’t in Australia, where do you go?
Copyright Act of Canada (Wikipedia page, sorry, couldn’t find the gov office)
You get the idea. It is a very good idea to find out what the laws are and make sure you know them. Even if you aren’t doing commercial photography, you should know where you stand as far as copyright goes. You should also know how to protect your own copyright, or that of your images.
To Brad and Heather, I hope this has helped you to understand a little about copyright laws.