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Photojournalist's perspective on photos.

Poster: "Jason & Shannon Smith" <srgiles@erols.com>

Greetings All!

I realize there have been a blue million postings on this subject, but I
think I can help out a bit here.

In the modern world I am a television news photojournalist in Washington,
D.C. and we run across this question about once or twice a year.  Some folks
think you have to have permission to use a persons likeness for
publication/broadcast.  The short, unqualified answer here is "No, you do
not need permission."

That's the overly-simplistic answer.

In reality the law goes that if the person being photographed is in public,
they are basically fair game.  As long as their image is not being used for
monetary gain, that's a big no-no.  One can be sued for that faster than
D.C. can spend tax money.

The real question is: Does the person being photographed have a "reasonable
expectation of privacy?"  If so, then you are infringing on their rights.  A
reasonable expectation of privacy is, for example, someone in their own home
or other private place engaging in matters not for the consumption of others
outside the private dwelling/residence.

That's wordy, but is true.  So an event held at a camp, park, or other
public place is ok for photographs of anyone in attendance.  If the event is
held in someone's private residence or other non-public building or site,
then taking someone's photo there, without permission, is not advised.

As always there is the "but if..." statement. If the person being
photographed gives you permission, verbal or written, you can use the photo
in a "reasonable manner."  What is a "reasonable manner?"  Ask the Supreme
Court... they haven't really figured it out!

My rule of thumb while on the job is:  Am I in a place I think is public?
Are they somewhere I can see them?  I can then take their photo.  Now, is it
ok if I'm on a public sidewalk and take a photo of someone in their home
doing something?  I would say yes, provided I can see them from a public
area without going onto their property.  But I don't think I would.

Hope this helps.  But this issue is problematic at best.

Jason H. Smith
TV Photojournalist

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