Using Photos of Strangers?

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Lisetta
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Using Photos of Strangers?
3 months ago

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

I'm unclear on how news photographers, for example, often photograph people without any permission given or required. And--it's a different issue--but paparazzi take and sell photos of famous people without permission all the time...so that's legal, but if you're not famous it isn't?

Curious about the rules on this--when you can and can't use images of people for commercial purposes (for example as part of a photo at a trade show) without needing a release from them.

Lisetta

Kim Letkeman
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta wrote:

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

I'm unclear on how news photographers, for example, often photograph people without any permission given or required. And--it's a different issue--but paparazzi take and sell photos of famous people without permission all the time...so that's legal, but if you're not famous it isn't?

Curious about the rules on this--when you can and can't use images of people for commercial purposes (for example as part of a photo at a trade show) without needing a release from them.

I believe that there is an exception for photojournalism ...

But if you try to sell the image you will have problems.

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Danielepaolo
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta wrote:

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

These people are in a public place so I don't think it matters.

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Apologies if my lack of photographic knowledge is catching.

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Lisetta
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Danielepaolo, 3 months ago

Danielepaolo wrote:

Lisetta wrote:

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

These people are in a public place so I don't think it matters.

That's what a lot of people think, but it isn't true.

Here's a link to a Steve's Digicam note about it, but I was looking for something more as well.

http://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/how-tos/becoming-a-professional-photographer/sell-photos-of-candid-subjects-consent-required.html

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Lloydy
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Lisetta ...
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta wrote:

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

... True. Look at it this way, an image stock agency will not buy your image without a signed release

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

True. See above

I'm unclear on how news photographers, for example, often photograph people without any permission given or required. And--it's a different issue--but paparazzi take and sell photos of famous people without permission all the time...so that's legal, but if you're not famous it isn't?

Paparrazi skirt the law and sometimes they get caught out. Recent case today - http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-27049435

Curious about the rules on this--when you can and can't use images of people for commercial purposes (for example as part of a photo at a trade show) without needing a release from them.

It is country dependent but the key point is - Commercial. If you take an image of people, generally, the law protects those people to a share of your gain. As I said, it is country specific

I take a lot of street images - None for gain - But, I am always careful that I have a tacit (verbal) agreement, even for posting on the web

Lisetta

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photoreddi
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta wrote:

Danielepaolo wrote:

Lisetta wrote:

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

These people are in a public place so I don't think it matters.

That's what a lot of people think, but it isn't true.

Here's a link to a Steve's Digicam note about it, but I was looking for something more as well.

http://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/how-tos/becoming-a-professional-photographer/sell-photos-of-candid-subjects-consent-required.html

I have to disagree here. The first paragraph in that article ends with this :

Foremost among those questions is whether or not you need the subject's permission to sell the photographs, and the answer is, it depends.

And it probably matters where the photography too place as well as the jurisdiction. This article on street photography's legalities only addresses NYC but it's probably similar in many more jurisdictions than it isn't.

...

In his lawsuit, Nussenzweig argued that use of the photograph interfered with his constitutional right to practice his religion, which prohibits the use of graven images.

New York state right-to-privacy laws prohibit the unauthorized use of a person's likeness for commercial purposes, that is, for advertising or purposes of trade. But they do not apply if the likeness is considered art. So diCorcia's lawyer, Lawrence Barth, focused on the context in which the photograph appeared. "What was at issue in this case was a type of use that hadn't been tested against First Amendment principles before - exhibition in a gallery; sale of limited edition prints; and publication in an artist's monograph," he said in an e-mail message.

"We tried to sensitize the court to the broad sweep of important and now famous expression that would be chilled over the past century under the rule urged by Nussenzweig." Among others, he mentioned Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous image of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945, when Allied forces announced the surrender of Japan.

Several previous cases were also cited in diCorcia's defense. In Hoepker v. Kruger (2002), a woman who had been photographed by Thomas Hoepker, a German photographer, sued Barbara Kruger for using the picture in a piece called "It's a Small World ...Unless You Have to Clean It." A New York federal court judge ruled in Kruger's favor, holding that, under state law and the First Amendment, the woman's image was not used for purposes of trade, but rather in a work of art.

Also cited was a 1982 ruling in which the New York Court of Appeals sided with The New York Times in a suit brought by Clarence Arrington, whose photograph, taken without his knowledge while he was walking in the Wall Street area, appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in 1978 to illustrate an article titled "The Black Middle Class: Making It." Arrington said the picture was published without his consent to represent a story he didn't agree with. The New York Court of Appeals held that The Times's First Amendment rights trumped Arrington's privacy rights.

In an affidavit submitted to the court on diCorcia's behalf, Peter Galassi, chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, said diCorcia's "Heads" fit into a tradition of street photography well defined by artists ranging from Alfred Stieglitz and Henri Cartier-Bresson to Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand. "If the law were to forbid artists to exhibit and sell photographs made in public places without the consent of all who might appear in those photographs," Galassi wrote, "then artistic expression in the field of photography would suffer drastically. If such a ban were projected retroactively, it would rob the public of one of the most valuable traditions of our cultural inheritance."

Neale Albert, the lawyer who represented Pace/ MacGill, said the case surprised him: "I have always believed that the so-called street photographers do not need releases for art purposes. In over 30 years of representing photographers, this is the first time a person has raised a complaint against one of my clients by reason of such a photograph." State Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische rejected Nussenzweig's claim that his privacy had been violated, ruling on First Amendment grounds that the possibility of such a photograph is simply the price every person must be prepared to pay for a society in which information and opinion freely flow. And she wrote in her decision that the photograph was indeed a work of art. "Defendant diCorcia has demonstrated his general reputation as a photographic artist in the international artistic community," she wrote.

But she indirectly suggested other cases might be more challenging. "Even while recognizing art as exempted from the reach of New York's privacy laws, the problem of sorting out what may or may not legally be art remains a difficult one," she wrote. As for the religious claims, she said: "Clearly, plaintiff finds the use of the photograph bearing his likeness deeply and spiritually offensive. While sensitive to plaintiff's distress, it is not redressable in the courts of civil law."

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, whose book of photographs "Storybook Life" was published in 2004, said that in setting up his camera in Times Square in 1999: "I never really questioned the legality of what I was doing. I had been told by numerous editors I had worked for that it was legal. There is no way the images could have been made with the knowledge and cooperation of the subjects. The mutual exclusivity, that conflict or tension, is part of what gives the work whatever quality it has."

Nussenzweig is appealing. Last month his lawyer Jay Goldberg told The New York Law Journal that his client "has lost control over his own image."

...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/17/arts/17iht-lorca.html?pagewanted=all

.

And so it goes (or went). If DPR's lawyers decided that all gallery photos that included people (even in public places) needed written permissions, the galleries would be decimated. At least cats, dogs, squirrels and birds don't have to sign consent forms. But maybe, just maybe, they should.

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Me Tarzan
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta wrote:

Quick question. I believe, but am not certain, that if you sell a photo with anyone in it you need to have a signed model release form from them along with some (often token) compensation.

So if you, for example, had a book with a photo in it of the Washington Monument with people in it who were identifiable but hadn't given signed consent, you couldn't use it, correct?

I'm unclear on how news photographers, for example, often photograph people without any permission given or required. And--it's a different issue--but paparazzi take and sell photos of famous people without permission all the time...so that's legal, but if you're not famous it isn't?

Curious about the rules on this--when you can and can't use images of people for commercial purposes (for example as part of a photo at a trade show) without needing a release from them.

Lisetta

There are also restrictions on national monuments, people or not. If you intend to sell the image, it qualifies as commercial.

http://www.nps.gov/nama/planyourvisit/permits-faqs.htm

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Danielepaolo
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to photoreddi, 3 months ago

photoreddi wrote:

And so it goes (or went). If DPR's lawyers decided that all gallery photos that included people (even in public places) needed written permissions, the galleries would be decimated. At least cats, dogs, squirrels and birds don't have to sign consent forms. But maybe, just maybe, they should.

I think you are confusing what we see on this site (images we post for discussion and art) with images that are sold for commercial profit. The OP's question and responses relates to images sold for commercial profit which does not include images sold for editorial use or presented as art.

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buckshot
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta

Folks out in public have no "expectation of privacy," and can be photographed. An image taken like that can be used without their permission for news, art and such things but It could not be used for "commercial" purposes like an advertizement. You can legally sell an image like this for non-commercial purposes without the consent of the people in the photo. I am not a lawyer and I am sure there are nuances so if you plan on making money you should consult one...

Good luck and snap away with impunity

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photoreddi
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Danielepaolo, 3 months ago

Danielepaolo wrote:

photoreddi wrote:

And so it goes (or went). If DPR's lawyers decided that all gallery photos that included people (even in public places) needed written permissions, the galleries would be decimated. At least cats, dogs, squirrels and birds don't have to sign consent forms. But maybe, just maybe, they should.

I think you are confusing what we see on this site (images we post for discussion and art) with images that are sold for commercial profit. The OP's question and responses relates to images sold for commercial profit which does not include images sold for editorial use or presented as art.

That last part was just a failed attempt at galleries humor.

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KJaay
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

HI Lisetta,

In general, you do not need any model release for photos taken in a public place (where the subject has no expectation of privacy) or for photos that are considered 'news' (Steve's digicam) It is the more candid shots where there is a problem. There is still a lot of gray areas and getting more tricky.

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Lisetta
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to KJaay, 3 months ago

Not sure how I feel about it, but I guess you all are right about how freely we can photograph people in public and use the photos without permission or compensation. Here are a couple of other references:

ehow on photographing people

From a lawyer/photographer

And here's his book, Bert Krage's "The Legal Handbook for Photographers"

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Ralph McKenzie
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

It seems we are a little more open in our treatment of photography, at least here in N.Z. and Australia.

Basically you can do whatever you like with your images provided you:

  • A  Own the copyright
  • B  Haven't demeaned or defamed the individual(s) as per Human Right & Privacy legislation
  • C Seek the permission of the parents if children are under 18 years of age ( voluntary but should be done to protect childrens privacy )
  • D  Don't use the images to endorse a product or service without consent.

There is more which has been covered in our local NZ D-Photo Forums here

Essentially you are free to take photos of whatever and wherever you like so long as it is deemed a public place.

Given the plethora of social media and image sharing sites, we are living in a more "Photographed World " than ever before. I think the main thing that authorities will need to concentrate on is Malicious Intent . That being the area where a good deal of harm is done. For example rabid Paparazzi style stalking. We don't generally suffer from this malaise here in NZ although with the recent Royals Tour we did get a brief taste of this.

Photography that is for unsavory usage, child pornography, clandestine photos demeaning people when they may be at the lowest point is another example.

As photographers we need to exercise a certain level of moral judgement, more-so with street photography which really is the recording of human life. Images may need to be considered carefully as to their final intent ( example: a street scene showing  individual(s) perhaps in less the savory situations ) could be used in a number of ways to highlight certain perils or just as a commercial photograph with little thought to how it is perceived, or as an example of fine art.

Is this malicious or exploitative or merely informative? This is where the moral judgement of the photographer comes in.

For the most part the rest of the world is happy taking all sorts of images of all sorts of people doing all sorts of crazy things and showing them to the world at large, with little thought other than to document having a good time with other people and places traveled.

Its a brave new world

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JohnXLondon
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

I think it comes down to whether or not the person in the shot is the subject, or incidental, and whether from the outset your intention was to sell the image .

If the subject, then permission should be sought as most/all commercial entities will expect to see a model release.

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OpticsEngineer
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

I recently read a good article on the laws in Germany.   If it is clear that the main subject is a building, monument or something like that and the people are incidental, no release is needed.

Here in the US, I have seen newspaper and TV broadcasts of photos of me in public spaces (college campus, zoo) where I was recognizable.  No one came looking to get a release from me and I was happy to be included.  But I was in the background and not the subject of the photo, or only the subject in a general way, like one of many students enjoying the first warm day of spring at the duck pond.     In situations where I was more like a subject in a photo (like operating equipment in a laboratory) I signed model releases.  Later several people have told me they saw those photos in far away places like Washington DC as part of presentations to government agencies overseeing college or national lab funding.  In situations like my daughters were hunting Easter eggs at a city park and they were the only two in the photo, the newspaper asked for and got releases before running the photos.

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Me Tarzan
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

Lisetta, I have followed this thread since its inception. I'll add that it would behoove all photographers to study 'fair use' of imagery as well as 'creative use', intellectual property and copyright law basics. There is a wide gap of interpretation and attempting to sell a particular image which contains a questionable subject could end unfavorably for the photographer.

Outside of people photography, if you're using a cup, plate, vase or other copyrighted item in your photograph you must also obtain permission from the copyright holder. You can't sell an image of a flower arrangement tucked inside a vase designed and sold by a business without a release because that would infringe copyright of the vase. The flowers of course are exempt.

Even taking images of a person's pet [horse, cow, dog, cat] and attempting to sell the image can become dicey as it deals with 'personal property'.

Imagery taken in museums, street photography, billboards, and most zoos are generally unsellable without releases. Keep in mind that some buildings within the larger cities have been copyrighted and require a release. We have several in my area that apply.

When in question, it's best to confer with an attorney who practices in this area of law.

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Lisetta
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Me Tarzan, 3 months ago

Me Tarzan wrote:

Lisetta, I have followed this thread since its inception. I'll add that it would behoove all photographers to study 'fair use' of imagery as well as 'creative use', intellectual property and copyright law basics. There is a wide gap of interpretation and attempting to sell a particular image which contains a questionable subject could end unfavorably for the photographer.

Outside of people photography, if you're using a cup, plate, vase or other copyrighted item in your photograph you must also obtain permission from the copyright holder. You can't sell an image of a flower arrangement tucked inside a vase designed and sold by a business without a release because that would infringe copyright of the vase. The flowers of course are exempt.

Even taking images of a person's pet [horse, cow, dog, cat] and attempting to sell the image can become dicey as it deals with 'personal property'.

Imagery taken in museums, street photography, billboards, and most zoos are generally unsellable without releases. Keep in mind that some buildings within the larger cities have been copyrighted and require a release. We have several in my area that apply.

When in question, it's best to confer with an attorney who practices in this area of law.

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Frank

Hi Frank, Yes, I think it is possible in the world of Facebook, etc. to think that "anything goes" when it comes to photographing others (and buildings) when it just isn't so. The laws/rules are complicated and it is, imo, easy to leave yourself vulnerable to lawsuits.

I was remembering about doing something with people related to the Travel Channel a while back, for example, and if you want to sell a video to them you have to have model releases for everyone in it. Obviously that's not true for every documentary they show, but if you're selling something to them and they don't know you, they require releases. (They do buy from anyone, though, you can even suggest series to them and they are very interested in online content. Don't pay much, but they -are- interested.)

Another example... I recently wrote the White House about using a photo of the President in a book with obvious news value (something that would probably even be a benefit to him, although that's not the purpose). Typically, the law on this is crystal clear: photos taken by government employees are in the public domain (although there are a few exceptions, WH photography isn't one of them). I got back a snippy letter from their legal department forbidding any use of the photo.

I'm tempted to use it anyway with a "So, sue me!" attitude, but...perhaps cooler heads will prevail.

Anyway, I may buy Krage's book because I think this just isn't as straight-forward as it should be. I can't go to a lawyer over every photo, and model releases, while courteous imo to the subject, are a headache to get and use--

Lisetta

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Ralph McKenzie
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Lisetta, 3 months ago

After reading the last to replies, all I can say is I'm glad I don't live in the USA.

To me it sounds like the most restrictive place that any serious amateur or professional photographer could ever have the misfortune to actually own a camera.

Frankly the view that the "vase" may be copyrighted is laughable. Assuming you aren't going to manufacture a copy of the "vase" in commercial proportions, the idea that said object is not able to be photographed renders me almost speechless with laughter.

Imagine for a moment if you will as bunch of enthusiastic American camera users visiting me in my (hypothetical ) pottery business. We have a nice cup of coffee and chat for a while, pose in front of my creations for the usual travel photo ( memories ) and wave a cheerful goodbye and come again soon.

Now the idea that all those people need to have me sign a release to say they haven't violated my copyrights is idiotic.

As a part time vocation I make high Hi-Fi speakers ( starting at the $5000 mark ). These are made to order for my clientele. They regularly show them off to friends etc, post pics of them in audio forums as I do myself. I have never asked for and never been asked for a release to be able to use the images. I have even seen them in online audio magazines. The point is, I made them, they have a hidden makers mark on them, if someones copies them (overseas) I view it as a compliment, and if anyone wants to know if theirs are genuine I can tell them if they are. I only own the copyright to these in New Zealand. International copyright is almost ruinous to pursue, so most smaller manufactures here don't.

A group here in NZ recently tried to trademark our tallest mountain ,Mt Cook. When I read this in my local photo magazine , I couldn't help but laugh. All those tourist being made to not take a photograph of what is a highly recognized international, hugely advertised, visitor/tourist destination, and then be told you cant take or publish an image of the mountain, is the stuff of the lunatic fringe or maybe the flat earth society. Either way it is/was pure stupidity.

The idea that I couldn't take an image of a listed building, say the Empire State Building for an example without first seeking a release to do so is plain !@#$%^ crazy.

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Me Tarzan
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Ralph McKenzie, 3 months ago

Ralph McKenzie wrote:

After reading the last to replies, all I can say is I'm glad I don't live in the USA.

To me it sounds like the most restrictive place that any serious amateur or professional photographer could ever have the misfortune to actually own a camera.

Frankly the view that the "vase" may be copyrighted is laughable. Assuming you aren't going to manufacture a copy of the "vase" in commercial proportions, the idea that said object is not able to be photographed renders me almost speechless with laughter.

Ralph, just to clarify, this applies when the image intends to be SOLD, and I assure you that copyright infringement is no laughing matter. You can take pictures of a copyrighted item all day long [most of the time]. You just can't sell the image which contains a copyrighted 'piece' w/o a release.

I took a quick glance at basic New Zealand Copyright Law and it appears that your country's guidelines are close to ours: http://www.copyright.org.nz/viewInfosheet.php?sheet=29

You'll need to open the PDF.

To clarify again, when you're using a copyrighted piece [goods, creative works such as a poem, a person, etc.] in a photograph, most of the time you'll need a release if you intend to again, SELL the image. There are certain exclusions.

Edit. At this point I'm going to bow out of the conversation. Because each case varies, it's best to seek the advice of an attorney which qualifies in this area of law to be certain that the image being sold is 'cleared' from personal risk.

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Ralph McKenzie
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Re: Using Photos of Strangers?
In reply to Me Tarzan, 3 months ago

Me Tarzan wrote:

Ralph, just to clarify, this applies when the image intends to be SOLD, and I assure you that copyright infringement is no laughing matter. You can take pictures of a copyrighted item all day long [most of the time]. You just can't sell the image which contains a copyrighted 'piece' w/o a release.

I took a quick glance at basic New Zealand Copyright Law and it appears that your country's guidelines are close to ours: http://www.copyright.org.nz/viewInfosheet.php?sheet=29

I'm familiar with the document. And its pretty standard and similar to international copyright.

However there is a clear distinction between what the OP originally was asking and copyright.

Copyright gives the photographer ownership of the work regardless of intent. The image in the first instance will be the property of the person who took it.

However, when a work is commissioned there are certain guidelines regarding the usage/moral/legal requirements of the work.

Images taken in the public domain are basically able to be used in any manner the owner likes. They can be displayed in a gallery or in any other media, sold or prints sold as the image was taken in a public arena. Now the photographer should also exercise some ethical and moral thinking in certain circumstances, but that is for the photographer to decide.

To clarify again, when you're using a copyrighted piece [goods, creative works such as a poem, a person, etc.] in a photograph, most of the time you'll need a release if you intend to again, SELL the image. There are certain exclusions.

I would agree with this in principle, and as you say there are certain exclusions.

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