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Publishing photo in a magazine

Wade Thompson , Mar 23, 2011; 02:32 p.m.

I have a quick question regarding whether I can get sued for something.
Quickly, my background. I've written stories for a newspaper and taken pictures of the people that I wrote the story...so I got their permission before hand prior to the printing of the newspaper.
Now, I am being asked to take "paparazzi" type photos for a city magazine taken at public and private events in the city. I plan to ask people after I've taken them if it's okay to use them in XYZ magazine... and if they are against it, I will delete the photo immediately. Getting written permissions from everyone seems way overkill and will reduce my production to a crawl.

My question is: Do I have to get permission (veral or in writing) or is it the fact that they are there out in public, enough to publish. None of these photos will be used for advertising if that makes a difference.
Ok, I will now sit back and listen to your responses.

Responses

Ellis Vener , Mar 23, 2011; 02:36 p.m.

While it is always better to get a model release but if you are in public and the usage is strictly editorial or art in nature (and the question is: how will you control or police that?) a model release is not necessary -- at least in the USA.
this is not a legal opinion (no.1 I am not a lawyer, no.2: I am not your lawyer.) so if you really want to know a real legal opinion, ask an attorney who is versed i nthis area of the law.

Craig Shearman , Mar 23, 2011; 02:48 p.m.

If you are shooting for a legitimate news publication and photographing people in public doing something newsworthy there is no need to ask permission or ask for a model release. In fact, you would look silly doing so. It simply isn't done. A release is not required for editorial use. (I worked for newspapers for 15 years and have worked in PR for another 15 years since then.) But there are limits: if you shoot a picture of a random woman in a short skirt walking down the street and the newspaper uses it to illustrate a story on prostitution and she isn't a prostitute, you/the publication could be in trouble. When you say "paparzzi type" photo do you mean an ordinary news photo or are you talking about something that is intentionally unflattering/compromsing/embarassing? Is the "city magazine" an established publication that provides legitimate news coverage of events on a regular basis or is it more fashion/style/trend oriented and by the time the photos are published they are no longer news? Both of those do send up some red flags warning of a slippery slope.

Steve Smith , Mar 23, 2011; 03:01 p.m.

Even if a release was required, the publisher needs it, not the photographer so you will not get into any legal trouble yourself just by being the photographer.

Wade Thompson , Mar 23, 2011; 03:09 p.m.

ok, it's a top notch city magazine designed to appeal to the affluent. You know, wine sipping types at a modern art fund raiser, etc. Articles about culture in the city, etc. Great photos usually. They are looking to add a page or two each month.

Having said that, I can tell you that the purpose for the photos is almost humorous to "catch" the affluent at benefits, art exhibits, etc... so it's more of the movers and shakers getting to see themselves in print. I think that is the purpose the publisher is looking for... definitely not going to be photos to embarrass anyone (unless of course, they are at an event with their girlfriend instead of their wife.. Yikes!)

Does that help shed more light on the situation?

Marios Forsos , Mar 24, 2011; 03:49 a.m.

It makes no difference who the magazine is targeted to - all that matters is HOW people's likeness is used in the magazine. If you're using your images to simply illustrate articles then you do not need a model release (on the other hand, if a recognizable buidling with specific corporate branding is clearly visible in your image, you MAY need a property release depending on the nature of the article).

The question is: can you make sure that none of the images you take will be used to, say, advertise wine? Or a winery? Or something else? If you can ensure that, then you're okay. Still, you'd better talk to a lawyer and make sure your licences are clear and specific so as not to land you in hot water in the future.

Steve Smith , Mar 24, 2011; 03:56 a.m.

unless of course, they are at an event with their girlfriend instead of their wife.

Their problem, not yours or the publisher's!

Still, you'd better talk to a lawyer and make sure your licences are clear and specific

Again, that's the publisher's responsibility, not the photographer's

I still don't understand all of this 'talk to a lawyer' advice when all this will do is soak up the photographer's income.

Craig Shearman , Mar 24, 2011; 05:16 p.m.

Wade, dont' know where you are but this sounds like the typical "city-regional" magazine -- Baltimore magazine, Washingtonian magazine, Philadelphia magazine or even Delaware Today where I used to be an editor. And it sounds like the assignment is the typical art museum opening, symphony fundraiser, new hospital wing etc. attended by the various donors and supporters. This is run of the mill stuff shot by photographers across the country every day. Nothing paparazzi about it. No celebrities (a celebrity is somebody who rates Entertainment Tonight, not the local lawyer or doctor who gave $5,000 to the hospital fund and thinks he looks cool in a tux.) The organization sponsoring the event usually begs the magazine to send a photographer and is thrilled when the photos run. As the photographer, you're not hiding in the bushes wait for Brangelina's limo to arrive. You show up at the party in a business suit and you make your way through the crowd shooting various people schmoozing with each other, maybe somebody speaking at a podium, etc. Either you recognize who the important people are -- the mayor, the symphony conductor, the art museum president, etc., -- or someone from the organization points them out to you. It's basically a news event (though typically not much real news) and there is absolutely no need for model releases or talking to a lawyer. You're friendly and polite, but you don't ask permission and you don't show them the pictures or offer to delete. Most people will be tickled to have their picture taken. Nobody is going to try to use these for advertising. If the organization is looking for photos for an ad or brochures, etc., they'll get their own photographer.

Wade Thompson , Mar 25, 2011; 07:23 a.m.

Craig,

Excellent post! Thanks for responding from experience.

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