View Full Version : Legality of using candid pictures?

Ulysses Adams
07-30-2015, 08:55 PM
Hi guys, I'm working on a documentary about a private institution (lets call it a reform school)

I have obtained many candid photos of various inmates at said institution from the people who took the original pictures, they aren't vulgar pictures or anything like that, just pictures of people standing around/smiling/etc... anyway Id like to use them in the film I'm making but am wondering if its required that i obtain written permission from each person in the pictures to use them? What do you guys think?

07-31-2015, 09:15 AM
This is going to depend upon laws in the state/country in which you are shooting, but usually pictures taken in a public environment do not need releases. Public is usually defined as "no reasonable expectation of privacy." A private institution would not qualify, meaning you would need permission to use anything from there. I work for a church, and we feature members and kids in a lot of our promotional materials. For the kids area (which is a semi-secure environment) we simply have all the parents sign something saying we are allowed to use their child's image for promotional purposes. We need a parent signature to care for the kid anyway, so we just added that as a clause in the contract with an option to opt out.

Another thought it this: it may be perfectly legal for you to use the images, but it never hurts to CYA. If I were in your position, I would get written permission from whoever I could to enable me to use that. If it's not feasible to get permission from the inmates, get something from the administration of the school that says you are using images provided by them, and that you are not liable for any legal ramifications that may arise from their usage.

Joe Giambrone
07-31-2015, 04:06 PM
Ask a lawyer. You could be sued for showing a person in such a place. They have rights, and if you breach them you could be liable. If people are committed to an institution they have a guardian who is responsible for them and would need to sign, in all likelihood. You are on thin ice.