Excellent post, Douglas. And more enlightening, probably, than my story of
the runaway excursion (which did happen in California, by the way).
With the "3 Stooges" decision, one can see that the law seems to favor
whomever wants to be vindictive enough to pursue it. One has to wonder how
healthy a practice this is for the big picture(puns not intended, but useful
For example, with your "3-page release form," you'd miss about
eleventy-seven good street pictures while securing 12 signatures--unless of
course you were doing a photo-documentary piece on the confusion of people
signing contracts. ;-) On the flip side, predatory Paparazi can hound a
princess to death with no major consequences besides bad publicity.
Somewhere there must be a middle ground--where the Truth is worth something
and Freedom's not just another word.
In California, where I practice law, a state constitutional right of privacy
was added by initiative about 25 years ago. What it really means in the
context of street photography, I do not know. The area of privacy is
All of these discussions are interesting as to what various people believe
is the law in this area. It is complex, constantly changing and very fact
specific. People in California in particular look at being slighted in some
manner as an opportunity to win the lottery of litigation assuming that they
can find a lawyer to prosecute a lawsuit on a contingency fee basis. I
think that the law is evolving into the concept that you cannot publish a
person's likeness without permission subject to some very narrow exceptions.
I think that this is unfortunate.
A recent case decided by the California Supreme Court found that the
likenesses of the Three Stooges drawn by an artist and placed on T-Shirts
sold a Venice Beach were misappropriations of the likenesses for commercial
purposes. Other cases have found that broadcasts of non-celebrities engaged
in personal traumas - car accidents, rescues from peril, criminal activities
and the like - by "reality" TV shows were not protected by journalistic
privileges but were violations of the right to privacy. Can plain old HCB
street photography in jeopardy?
This area of law is not my area of expertise - I am a corporate lawyer. I
know enough to be wary. I do some street photography and do not get model
releases. I have always wondered what a model release is anyway. If I were
to draft one that truly covered my risks, the release would probably be
several pages long.
Do photographers wandering around the street really get these things? If
so, what so they say?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Johnny Deadman" <email@example.com>
To: "Filmscanners" <Filmscanners@halftone.co.uk>
Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2001 3:37 PM
Subject: Re: filmscanners: OT: photographing on the street
> on 5/20/01 6:19 PM, Lynn Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> >> Does US law really provide for someone to sue for invasion of privacy?
> > I've never heard of that. I would like to know more if it is true.
> > OK, True Story; this happend in the late 50's: A Greyhound excursion bus
> > tour (50's version of Princess Cruises), photographer's assignment is to
> > photograph happy people enjoying themselves on the excursion.
> > One photo shows a happy, smiling couple obviously enjoying the trip, and
> > company uses it in a *small* brochure. The couple's spouses, who were
> > on the trip, are less than thrilled.
> > Divorce. Lawsuit. Greyhound settles out of court. Art Director is fired
> > get his job).
> Okay but that's not invasion of privacy in the sense of the French law or
> touted UK law (it won't happen). That's just non-released commercial
> As far as I am aware there's no invasion of privacy statute in US law.
> John Brownlow
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