View Full Version : Life pictures in book

06-04-2011, 05:27 AM
First, I'm sorry if this has been answered before, but I did a search and couldn't find the thread (probably my computer-challenged skills :) ). Also, if I'm in the wrong area, please locate me to the right spot ;)

My uncle would like to publish a coffee table book featuring some of the oddest and most unique mailboxes. He has taken every single picture himself, and yes, with a very good quality camera. I know that he would have to blur out any indentifying markers, such as last names, in the pictures, but can he legally take pictures of other people's mailboxes and publish them? Or does he need written consent by the owners?

They are stricly mailboxes, no houses, people, ect.

Any help and info would be greatly appreciated.

Would he need an agent? If so, how would I find one? Querytracker.net has listings for NF art/photography and gift books. Are those the kind I'm looking for?

Thanks you guys! Sorry for being noob to the wonderful world of art.

Susan Littlefield
06-04-2011, 06:22 AM
They are Federal property. I personally would not see a problem with it, since people photograph things all the time that are in public view.

Maybe there is mail carrier writer person who can answer your question.

06-04-2011, 07:08 AM
Thanks so much Susan. Didn't think of that :)

06-04-2011, 01:24 PM
You cannot sell an image of somebody or of their property for commercial purposes without obtaining a release form.

However, I don't believe your uncle's book would fall under commercial purpose. It's an art book (or maybe an academic study type book), so I *think* it would probably be fine, but I am not a lawyer.

06-04-2011, 05:53 PM
However, I don't believe your uncle's book would fall under commercial purpose. It's an art book (or maybe an academic study type book), so I *think* it would probably be fine, but I am not a lawyer.

It seems to me that if the author, or anybody else, sells the book, then that's commercial purpose. Why else would an agent be involved?

06-04-2011, 10:40 PM
Thanks Theo and VT. That's what I figured, but wasn't sure.

06-04-2011, 11:24 PM
Might want to check out this:


By that, it would appear that the mailbox, being government property and out in public, does not need a release by the owner to have the photo in a book (as long as the privacy issues are addressed). But, as always, when in doubt about legalities, one should consult an attorney. Typically it doesn't cost anything (or very little) for a consult, and it can save a lot of headaches (and money) in the long run.

06-05-2011, 12:35 AM
I've seen a LOT of photos of unusual mailboxes in magazines, but I have no idea how or if permission was obtained.

I do know most mailboxes are not government property. We had to buy our own mailbox, and it belongs to us. Government regulations cover permitted uses of the mailbox, but the government does not own my mailbox. I can beat it with a hammer, throw it away, replace it any time I wish, or, for that matter, have no mailbox at all.

All I can't do is use a mailbox in a way government regulations specify, which generally means I can't put non-stamped material in anyone else's mailbox, or deliver to the interior of the box at all, unless I'm a postal employee.

Doing so is illegal, but not because the mailbox is federal property. It's illegal only because the law says it is, just as breaking into someone else's house is illegal, even though it, too, is private property.

Anyway, only mailboxes bought by the postal service, and placed where they are by the postal service, which means public drop boxes, are government property.

As for selling photos of other people or property without permission, sometimes you can't, and sometimes you can. Have you ever asked for permission to sell a landscape photo, even though it's someone else's property? Of course not.

Nor do you automatically need permission to sell images of people. You don't think photographer's go to every person in a snapshot of a crowd to get permission, do you? Or even permission when they snap a photo of random people walking along Times Square, or standing and staring up at Mt. Rushmore.