In general, you may photograph people when they are in public. The use of those photographs, however, can be restricted due to certain privacy rights. Privacy rights are recognized in most states, but are different for each one. Since it’s tricky to know what you can do, the safest approach to follow is the most restrictive one.
One right of privacy – also known as the right of publicity – is the commercial appropriation of someone’s name or likeness. It happens when the name or likeness of someone is used without consent to gain some commercial benefit, such as when a photograph of a person is used in an advertisement without the person’s permission. That is why model releases are so important. It is evidence that you have the person’s permission to use his image for certain purposes.
So what do you do when you travel to foreign countries to photograph the people there? Do you need a model release? What if the people don’t speak English?
Nevada Wier has published thousands of travel photographs from all over the world. Her advice in her book, Adventure Travel Photography, is:
"If you plan to use your photographs for publication or stock, I think it is wise to have signed model releases from any people you photograph in a foreign city, no matter what their nationality or what the shooting situation is. (Even though lawsuits aren't currently common in the rest of the world, this might change.) Translate your release forms into the language of the country you'll be traveling and photographing in. In more remote regions it is a bit trickier to get signed model releases, and not always appropriate. People may be suspicious, confused or frightened if they're asked to sign a piece of paper. Use your common sense."
I couldn’t have said it better.
Take my advice; get professional help.
Copyright 2005 Carolyn E. Wright All Rights Reserved
--- ABOUT THE AUTHOR ---
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq., has a unique legal practice aimed squarely at the needs of photographers. A pro photographer herself, Carolyn has the credentials and the experience to protect photographers. She’s represented clients in multimillion dollar litigations, but also has the desire to help new photographers just starting their careers. Carolyn graduated from Emory University School of Law with a Juris Doctor, and from Tennessee Tech Univ. with a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in music.
She wrote the book on photography law. “88 Secrets to the Law for Photographers," by Carolyn and well-known professional photographer, Scott Bourne, is scheduled for fall 2005 release by Olympic Mountain School Press. Carolyn also is a columnist for PhotoFocus Magazine.
Carolyn specializes in wildlife photography and her legal website is http://www.photoattorney.com
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