Thursday, March 17, 2016

Do You Use Images of Children without Consent?

Not all parents react the same to finding out that an image of their child has been published. Some are thrilled that the child is getting their proverbial "15 minutes" of fame. Others start screaming for lawyers as their sense of privacy and the safety of their children comes into question. Personally, I'm somewhere in the middle, depending on how the image is used.

I can, and have, covered the entire spectrum when it comes to my own children, who have modeled professionally since they were little. (The upside, or is that downside, of having a professional photographer for a mum) The difference in my attitude is based on a couple of different things.

Where was the image taken?
There are a lot of parents that take their children to public places, like parks or town fairs, where people taking pictures are going to be. They then get upset when their "little darling" ends up in a news article or in an artistic shot of the area. My question to these parents is "Why did you bring them if you did want anyone to see them?" Not every person holding a camera is a pedophile.

If the child was someplace private or if a photographer seemed to be taking an overly eager interest in my child, then there would be cause to worry. If an image of my child, taken through the window of our home, for example, suddenly showed up in advertising for anything - then there would be a real problem. 

As a photographer I have had parents get in my face on numerous occasions. I tend to cover a lot of events so I have images where a kid happens to be in the background or is part of a group doing something. A mother once told me that she would not tell me the names of her children because she believed that would make the images worthless (this is not true, it just makes the children nameless). As it turned out I didn't even have any images of her kids - who were on the same softball team as my child. 

Another parent told me that I owed him money. When I stared blankly at him he explained that my taking a picture of his daughter made her a model and therefore I owed him money. In that case I told him "No problem, I'll delete the image and tell the event director (who had hired me to takes images at the event), why contestant X had no photos." He backed off quickly once he thought his daughter's chances in the contest might be compromised. 

What is the image being used for? 
If my child attends a public event and the event posts images on their Facebook page, then I don't usually have an issue. If someone takes a image of child and posts it with a caption about my child loving a particular brand of toothpaste (assuming there is no contract in place), then I have a problem. 

The difference with these two scenarios is that one is reporting an event that happened, in which my child was involved. The other is a company that is using my child as a model for their advertising campaign, without compensating the model. It amounts to free labor and taking advantage of a situation. Which is never a good thing.

Was there a model release? 
Model releases are contract between the model and the person who wants to use the image of the model. In many cases the person who wants to use the image is the photographer, but some commercial productions require the model to sign a release for the company. 

Often the release includes information about how the model will be compensated. In some it also lists the limits of other parties use of the image. For example, a model release may say that the images can not be used in advertising that is sexual in nature. 

In the case of minors, a legal guardian must sign the release for it to be valid. Because of this is much less likely that I will be upset by seeing my child's image used if I know that I signed a release for the use. 

My basic rule is that I look at the circumstances surrounding the use of the image. Uses like the books pictured are not legally wrong because the image was taken at a public event, and the books are educational in purpose. A little common sense can go a long way.