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LC123
06-15-2008, 02:37 AM
I just delivered a finished manuscript to my publisher. It contains public domain photos from a government website. Some have clearly identifiable people in them, which obviously I don't have model releases for. Two of the photos contain celebrity images.

My editor is fine with this; he says they've used such photos before in their books without problem. Me being the worrier that I am, am concerned that l'll pick the photo with the one person who gets mad about it. All photos are used in a flattering manner, no negativity, if it matters.

Bottom line: Would you use such photos without model releases? Even if your editor is fine with it? Ultimately it all comes back to me, so I don't know how fine I should be with his fine, lol.

June Casagrande
06-15-2008, 09:03 PM
You don't need someone's permission to publish a photo of him or her. If I'm walking down the street, you can take my picture and put it in the newspaper and, like it or not, I can't do a thing about it. If, however, you're photographing me in your studio -- that's different because it's not journalism or a publicly viewable event. Further, if I take a picture of Lindsay Lohan walking down Rodeo and run it on my website, that's fully protected. But if you copy the file off my website and run it on yours, I -- not Lohan -- have a legal claim against you. (I used to be an editor at a community newspaper, so I had to deal with this issue from time to time.)

Free speech rights, copyrights and privacy rights all come into play and major publishing houses make it their business to know the law.

If you're working with a major and/or respected publishing house, I would not hesitate to trust them. If you're self-publishing or working with a less-established organization, I would consult a lawyer.

gettingby
06-16-2008, 02:13 AM
You cannot take just anyone's picture on the street and run it in the newspaper. And I don't know why a newspaper would do such a thing. If people are in famous or public figures, or committing a crime that is different. But if you look under the photos in the newspaper, they usually say the names of who is in them. That is because the photographer got there permission.

As for LC's question, I would not worry about getting the subject's permission as much as the photographer's permission. Someone must own rights to those photos.

LC123
06-16-2008, 06:08 AM
I'm working with a mid-size house that has been around a long time, so I assume they know what they're doing. I was just soliciting opinions.

The pics are owned by the government, not the photographer, and are in the public domain. The Terms of Use asks that the specific government agency be credited with the photo, as well as the individual photographer, if possible. I'm crediting the govt but not the photog, as it will clutter up the captions too much. The Terms of Use also says they're not responsible for model releases and privacy issues. So that's what kind of spooked me.

tombookpub
06-16-2008, 06:49 AM
LC123: I would say you're OK to use these -given the public domain provision. Had you not had that, you'd be grappling with "right to privacy" and "right to publicity" issues even for those in the public eye. And to go the conservative route, releases would be needed. For peace of mind, you could always contact Jenna's co-author and lawyer Dan Stevens who wrote the book, "The Street Smart Writer".

June Casagrande
06-16-2008, 07:21 PM
.. if you look under the photos in the newspaper, they usually say the names of who is in them. That is because the photographer got there permission.

I worked in news for 10 years. As city editor of the former Our Times supplement to the Los Angeles Times, it was my job to get and input those photo IDs from the photographers. The reason photo subjects are identified has nothing to do with permission. It has to do with providing readers with as much information as possible. Sometimes photographers didn't have the info. In rare cases that is because the photo subject didn't want to be in the photo. The Los Angeles Times media attorney would give us annual seminars on media law. They made sure we knew what we could and could not do.

You said you don't know why a newspaper would do such a thing. Yet they do it all the time. Ever see a photo of a crowd of people -- say shoppers at a mall during holiday season or sunbathers on a beach? Those people did not all give permission. And if one of them has a problem with it, they have no recourse.

The laws get really interesting here. Imagine a guy sitting on the beach with a woman who's not his wife. A photo accompanying a weather story shows a group of people on the beach and he and his friend are identifyable among them. It costs him his marriage. He has no legal recourse because the image was publicly viewable. If, however, the shot was taken under any of a million more private circumstances, he could sue and win.

This is the kind of stuff media attorneys taught us in the libel seminars at my former job.

As I said, there are complicated laws governing what you can and cannot print. But I'm a stickler for the free speech principles inherent here. Newspapers print photos of people without their permission every day. As long as it's done according to guidelines, it's legal, ethical, and routine.

aka eraser
06-16-2008, 07:35 PM
Since you're dealing with an established house, there's no need to doubt your editor.

Don't borrow trouble. Some will be along shortly. ;)

tombookpub
06-17-2008, 09:19 PM
Since you're dealing with an established house, there's no need to doubt your editor.

Don't borrow trouble. Some will be along shortly. ;)

-----
I agree wholeheartedly. I had plans to have a picture at the start of each chapter pertaining to my soon-to-be-released book on beach volleyball. A well-known literary attorney advised me against it.

.

pconsidine
06-17-2008, 11:26 PM
He has no legal recourse because the image was publicly viewable. If, however, the shot was taken under any of a million more private circumstances, he could sue and win. That's the whole "reasonable expectation of privacy" part of the law that makes things so exciting. As far as photos of celebrities, there are such things as "likeness rights," but if your source material is public domain and provided by the government, you ought not run into any issues there (especially if you're presenting them in a positive light).

Speaking as a photographer, however, it sucks that you're leaving off the photographer's names. For one, it's part of the Terms of Use under which you're using the images, and for two, it's most likely the only compensation those photographers are getting.

Just saying.