What are Your Rights as a Videographer or Photographer?

Jun 17 2008

Stop filming me!

I have never really considered what my rights are as a video blogger, as I have only filmed myself and used all Redpilot music (or GBs) and photos in my videos. But yesterday, I posted a video that I took at private party whilst I was in San Francisco and a bunch of people were unhappy.

The party hosts were angry that I didn’t ask permission before posting the video, as it was their home and they were visible in the video. What made matters worse is that the video went viral on Valleywag (basically Silicon Valley’s US Weekly).

I honestly didn’t think of any of these issues before posting the video. I was more concerned with Feist suing me for using her song. I was genuinely surprised that anyone at this high-tech, twitter/blog centric gathering would mind me posting this video, let alone think it was a violation of privacy. But it was private property and I did not ask explicit permission before posting the video which was my fault entirely.

My own knowledge of privacy laws and video blogging is obviously lacking. So, let’s talk about the rights and rules of video blogging so that we can educated ourselves before hitting the publish button and getting in heaps of trouble.

A few weeks ago, TWiP specifically addressed photographer’s rights in a podcast entitled, “The War on Photography.” They linked to an important guide that clearly outlines your rights as a photographer.

You might want to download a copy of this PDF and keep one in your camera bag, in the event that you are yelled at by an irate mother for taking a shot with their kid in the frame. (I get yelled at at least once a day for taking photos of houses, dogs, people, places, shops… You name it. I’ve been yelled at for taking a picture.)

So what are your rights as a photographer? According to Bert P. Krages II (the second!), Attorney at Law:

…anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs.

This means you can take pictures in any public place, any person (celebs, kids, accident scenes, houses, people on their front lawn), airports, train stations, even criminal activities (though I don’t advise this one :P). It’s important to note that there is definitely a grey area when it comes to shooting photos on private property:

Property owners may legally prohibit photography on their premises but have no right to prohibit others from photographing their property from other locations. Whether you need permission from property premises depends on the circumstances. In most places, you may reasonably assume that taking photographs is allowed and that you do not need explicit permission.

Ok, so you can take photos basically anywhere, including private property, unless the property owner explicitly tells you not to. If they tell you not to take photos, you are legally obligated to obey.

The one thing this guide does not cover is how do these rules change when you are publishing the image or making money from the publication of the photo or how this applies to the www and specifically bloggers. When you publish a picture or video on your blog, it goes viral and is completely Google searchable, which means heaps more people will be able to see it, share it, and copy and paste it anywhere. Also, if you have any ads on your blog or are using a video sharing platform that embeds ad into your videos, you are technically earning money from your content.

So I have three questions for you:

1. Should we apply the rights of a photographer to a videographer’s/vlogger’s as they are completely different mediums?

2. Should the rules change when publishing and monetary gain is involved?

3. With no way of regulating where and how your photos & viral videos can end up, do you feel a greater pressure to censor your content?

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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42 Responses to “What are Your Rights as a Videographer or Photographer?”

  1. Don’t forget that we Canadians have slightly different rules to follow. These are nicely summarized here: http://ambientlight.ca/laws.php

  2. I still love you, Lisa. =)

  3. 1st different medium’s should have different rules but in this case you are talking about taking photographs (or filming) so rules should apply. One thing to have in consideration, the oner of a property might give you permission to take photos only for personal use so it’s might be best to always have an informed consent (just like doctors).

    2nd if you were allowed to take the fotos, and there were no restriction, they are yours, and so you can do what you want with them even selling them… so rules shouldn’t change when money is envolved.

    3rd As a graphic designer/illustrator i have much more concerns, like intelectual property for example… i never know if an idea wasn’t developed before by somebody else.

    Yes, you should have asked permission to film. (they must have seen you filming them, but ok, they might have thought it was for personal use) Well you seem sorry and already apologized so they have to forgive you. I would! :-)

  4. Ps: Have a nice Hibernation!

  5. Since I’m no legal expert, I’m not sure what to really tell you. But maybe you could contact Michael Geist he’s a law professor. He would probably be able to give you the best answer to your question.

  6. I had a post a few months ago where I was taking a picture at an outdoor mall and a security guard stopped me. Despite what he claimed, there was no rule about photography anywhere in the malls code of conduct or on their website.
    I rank very well for the Bayshore Mall keywords now and my post is very unflattering and has no photos.
    I do not see much difference between video and photo mediums as far rights usage would be.
    Keep in mind that for commercial instead of editorial use, using an image of a building is very different. There are Trademark and Copyright laws that may apply and I would expect that the law would be the same with video.
    There is not much you could do to stop a new reporter from filming an unfavorable clip in front of a business, but it would be very different if you tried to film a Pepsi commercial in front of a Coca-Cola building.
    *please note that all names of companies used in this comment are the property of their respective owners….

  7. I think that you did the right thing. First it’s your right to be able to do what you did but if they request it to be taken down then you are obliged to do so. It should just become common courtesy to ask before publishing as well, there is just that fine line to find as to when to ask and to when it’s just understood that it’s free to use. Just for instance on a photoshoot the other day we used the side of buildings and trucks that belong to other people without asking for permission, but when we went to go inside a bus we went and asked permission.

    A fun little video shouldn’t be such a big ordeal, but some people are quite uptight.
    so number one I believe the ideas are the same so yes, it applies to both mediums, two I’m not sure what to think about this aspect yet, and three I don’t like censorship and personally I wouldn’t give a thought to censoring something unless it is things like an adress, phone number, etc..

    It’s all a little blurry to tell when and when not

  8. Waaaaah! to the party hosts. You didnt say who, you didnt say where, you didnt say they were going to be on vacation for a week next tuesday, please come steal the art in the background… it was a bunch of iPhones. Waaaah to whiners.

  9. I think this is more a social thing than a rights/legal issue. If they had asked you to stop filming at the time, then you would have had to but they either approved of your filming, or did not know, so once you’ve filmed they really have little legal right to stop you doing what you want with that film/footage.

    Having said that, you were at a party at their home and I assume you’re on some level social friends with them. If they’re uncomfortable with their home being shown online, then the polite thing to do is to take it down. If you feel strongly about keeping it up then that’s your decision, but I’d assume that if you get a reputation for being “that video person” your party invite ratio might dip.

  10. The party people sound like party poopers. Those Google/Apple people are usually uptight to begin with. Calm down and relax for once people! Take a chill pill/Prozac.

    If I were in a video, I would be honored.

  11. You have *got* to be kidding me. Feist could sue you (but that would be so uncool) but really…a bunch of Google/Apple/interweb folk? At a party filled with folk of similar mindset? At a *party*? Stacking cell phones? The tragedy! Such personal damage to their…umm…what? Egos? Souls? Tummies? Cell cases?

    Well, I’m appalled.

    I’m not going to start walking around with release forms in my pocket. Sorry. Anyone who doesn’t want stuff photographed or filmed (like, say, my Mom) needs to say so in advance. Pressure to censor? Gee, nope.

    Honestly, I’m irritated as all get out that *this* particular crowd had an issue with a completely harmless video about stacked phones. It’s not like y’all were skewering puppies.

    Violation of privacy, my ass. Boo-internet-hoo.

    No. No.

    No.

  12. Well, according to my husband from his lawfirm days, there are two big differences here:

    1) Angering the people involved
    or
    2) Legal liability

    The first one is just a judgement call on your part. However, the second part is very broad. It is EXTREMELY difficult to get into legal trouble for filming unless you are committing a crime while doing it (like trespassing). If you are invited to a party and there are a lot of people around, there isn’t even an expectation of privacy.

    Now if you are told that you are trespassing and you are asked to leave and THEN you film…believe it or not…you probably still won’t be in trouble unless the film causes them some form of material or severe emotional harm. If they’re embarrassed because they were drinking too much or something, that’s not an area where the law will get involved.

    So as long as you’re allowed to be where you are, you can hold a camera anytime you want. Whether or not you get invited back might be another story.

    It sounds like you did nothing wrong and people had some “After the fact” embarrassment. Don’t lose any sleep over it Lisa. If they are your friends, then apologize and tell them you didn’t mean any harm. If they aren’t friends, then don’t sweat it.

    One good example that happened here recently:
    –BIG party at a house
    –No formal invitations – word of mouth invites
    –Guy crashes the party but no one objects because lots of people are crashing it
    –Said guy films people smoking pot
    –Same guy posts video on the internet
    The host filed a civil suit against the cameraman, and it was thrown out at the very first step.

  13. I had a similar situation arise over photographs taken at someone’s house that I had on Flickr. I named the album “party hosted by the ____________s” and sent out the link to the 20 guests who were in attendance. Almost a year later those home owners had their house alarm go off. There was no break-in and it was likely a false alarm. They still decided to call us up out of the blue give us shit for having a picture of their house online. They thought someone tracked them down through that album and tried to break in. I took down the album right away but I thought the reaction was a little neurotic.

  14. Hi,

    As the guys above hint at, the laws vary a lot from country to country. Here in Australia there is no Bill of Rights so we’re pretty much free to photograph anyone anywhere as long as we don’t tresspass and as long as we can run faster than whoever gets angry at us for taking their photo :) In the US if I remember correctly, there is a difference between celebrities (whose face / look is an asset linked to their income and regular Joes, who are considered “nothing special”. So the law sometimes varies depending on who you’re photographing as well as where and whether or not the photgraphs are to be used to generate income or are recreational. It’s a minefield – just shoot and run :P

  15. So, if we leave a comment about how neurotic we think the party hosts are, will they be more upset over the video or the backlash from this post? ;) Iphone’s and sushi aside, they sound like people I wouldnt want to party with. lol.

  16. Hmm it’s sticky. First, I’m going to go off on a mini tangent and say when it comes to kids you shouldn’t post anything (photo or video) without the parent’s permission. I always ask my sister even if it’s okay to post a photo of my nephew on his birthday.

    Like at Northern Voice they say that anyone is fair game for photos and vids just please do not take shots of the daycare or the kiddies.

    As for video, I echo the comments about it being in a private space – but you’d think with social media geeks floating all around that some rules would be laid out.

    Although, if I have friends over I have sometimes asked that they do not take photos from our balcony because then you can tell where we live. But someone like Duane will do that all the time at his place and post all kinds of personal information (like his license plate number etc.) – it’s really tough to tell where the boundaries are with anyone these days.

  17. This is a very interesting discussion here. I have to say that I think you just need to use some common sense when publishing things.

    Firstly if you are in a public place then there should be no problem publishing photos or video. However if someone explicitly tells you that they would rather you not photograph or video them, then why go against there wishes?

    I think with friends and family you get to know who does and doesn’t want photos taking of them and therefore I don’t really have any problems.

    With video phones now all over the place this is becoming more and more of a problem especially as a teacher in schools as there are occasions where there are students filming various misdemeanors and then publishing them on the net.

    I do think that some sort of ‘rules and regs’ need to be produced by someone, in order to guide bloggers and the like into what should and shouldn’t be done.

  18. What I wanted to say has been said, so I’ll echo it. Legally, it’s pretty grey. However from a “social butterfly who wants to be seen at all *the* parties” perspective, doing things that alienate you from them can prove to be problematic.

    For me, it’s often a matter of how they act. If they come to me nicely and say “I was hoping you could take the image down,” that’s one thing. If they come at me with a hammer and try and force me, well then, I start making posts where I point out the video (or in my case picture) in question, drawing even more attention to it, because, well, because they’re trying to strongarm me, and I don’t like to be strongarmed, even when I am within my rights.

    I too was going to point you to Ambient Light, but as that has already been done, I have nothing to say. So why did it take three paragraphs to say it?

  19. Yeah, there is an increasingly blurry line dividing what is and isn’t fair use on the web. I missed the video yesterday so I was bummed I didn’t get to see it when I got online today. :-(

    Sorry you caught grief for it. For what it’s worth, I’m on your side! :-)

  20. I believe the right to post is the same with photography (strictly one man’s opinion) however given the situation, you did what you had to do. It is blurry and people were upset. By taking it down, you likely saved yourself a lot of headaches even if you were not(or were) required to (take it down).

    Sorry you got caught up in this mess because everybody who reads your blog knows where your heart is and what your intentions are. Everything is sincere and honest. Well, I think we have all learned a lesson and that is we should know what our rights are to take a picture/video and what our rights are to post said item.

    I am glad I got to see the video before it went down. It is too bad people can get uptight over the smallest things. Keep your chin up and keep everything coming. Your blog is a daily read for me and that cannot change.

  21. It’s definitely a difficult situation especially when other people are involved. I usually just try to gauge the audience and I’m constantly concerned with privacy of others (unless it’s some random person on the street.. they are fair game ;)

    I didn’t see the video you put up, but I doubt it was that bad!

  22. I saw the video earlier, and aside from being confused by the novelty of stacking an iPhone, I didn’t see anything that I would object to if it had been my party and guests. Unless iPhone stacking is a dark ritual to invoke their dark masters, I can’t image why they would want to shroud the practice in mystery. Now if you had been filming some creepy video tour of their home while you were supposed to be enjoying a party I’d demand a take down, followed up by a restraining order.

  23. @Justine
    It was just people round a table chatting and drinking really – nothing that bad. In fact you could hardly see their faces.

    However I think that if they are not happy with the material then Lisa was right to remove it. Having said that didn’t they know at the time that she was likely to publish it?

  24. Yeah – this is an issue which is greatly amplified by how the web works. On one hand, I can understand that the party hosts may have been wigged out by having the contents of their home all over the web. I’m sure many people have expensive or personal items inside that they might not want to share with the whole world, but just those who are PHYSICALLY invited inside. It’s a bit like the invasion of privacy issue the paparazzi create.

    On the other hand, they should have been ok with it if you had asked permission. I think that’s the key…ask permission and say, it’s possible some of this video I may put up on my blog. Are you ok with that? I am Lisa superstar blogger from Canada. Do you know what that might mean? Seriously speaking, it could also be that you are GIVEN permission, but then it’s later revoked. At the end of the day, it comes down to the golden rule for me personally. If we can’t photograph or video it, then just write about – that is still hands off in my opinion. Ironically I just posted a piece today (http://www.brooksvannorman.com/high-intensity-weight-training-with-jim-flanagan/)on a workout that I had at a friends private gym in Florida which had many pictures of HIS personal friends on the walls, some of them even had personal notes written on them. And these are high profile people: Colin Powell, Chuck Norris, etc. However, before taking and video or photos, I asked for permission and it was explicitly granted. I also put this granting of permission RIGHT IN MY BLOG POST in case Chuck Norris or Colin Powell come after me! YIKES!!!

    Having said all that, if my friend Jim called me today and said, “Brooks, please take the photos and video down”, then I absolutely would. However, I would leave up the text.
    The bottom line is that the web and blogging, etc. has opened up some weird scenarios which criss-cross the public/ private divide…it’s a situation which we’re all not that comfy with yet and think we as pioneers of this change need to be sensitive to others needs.

    And don’t even get me started about the fat loss supplement company who lost in court when sued by an “overweight” lady that was filmed “at random”, “in public” by the defendant for defamation in its infomercials….you’ll notice that all such commercials today no longer take the risk of filming ANYONE above the torso….it’s just to risky…

  25. I have to wonder if a few of those iphones were unlocked or jailbroken, and you were able to tell if you knew what you were looking at in the video. I know they pressed the home screen button, but that image can be changed without jailbreaking the phone.

    My only thought is that a couple people hacked their iphones in order to use all the cool software thats been created, and didnt want that to be known.

    Ive unlocked and jailbroken mine, opens up a whole new world for the iphone. But as an apple or google employee, i can see that being frowned upon, and cause for the request to remove the video.

  26. I saw the video. I didn’t notice the faces. I was more concerned with all the iphones. Ha! That reminds me of a photo @ijustine took at dinner in SF one night. I think you should have kept the video up. No one would have gotten in trouble for that video. It was harmless.

  27. I just started reading your blogs and they’re hehehe-larious! I noticed you were up in SF not too long ago. Did you manage to visit the Apple “Mother Ship” here in Cupertino? I live in San Jose so it’s not too far. At any rate, this is an interesting entry as I was just reading an article about this.

    http://www.videomaker.com/article/13773/

    At any rate, hope you had a fun time, *continues to lurk about the entries*

  28. [...] The gist of the matter can be found on Lisa’s post, as well as a rather lengthy discussion (28 comments by the time I checked). Lisa is a Vancouver blogger whom I know in person, we have hung out a few times, and I really like her sense of humor. So I was a bit baffled when she took flack for a video she did of a private party. However, I can see how things could be complicated. [...]

  29. I can see where it would have been best for you to say that you may post this online. But, for them to get that angry. In this day and age if someone is shooting a video of something cool and funny you should expect them to be posting it online in short time.

  30. Great post.. I have a complaint filed against me because I posted a photo of someone and requested background information on them. This person took my kids and wont make proper arrangements to re-unite with them. This person feels threaten by me because I made a post. I deleted the post and apologized on my blog. What are my rights as a blogger? What can I do to not get indicted over a simple mistake as I did not know my rights as a writer and blogger, photographer? You can read more at my blog http://jvega08823.wordpress.com.

  31. every single geeky gathering i’ve ever been to involved cameras, and every one of these gatherings had something posted somewhere afterwards.

    that is to be expected.

    so if i invite a bunch of interwebby people over to my house and don’t want any pictures taken, i need to TELL them!!!

    and i echo macanuck – if in my martini-induced stupor i forget to tell them and people DO take pictures, all i can do is politely ask them to take them down. which you did.

    all of that seems common sense to me. but then of course, common sense is vague, and it gets even vaguer in the “wild west” atmosphere that we experience with all these new media. (looks like i’m not the only one using that term, random student of the environment) we haven’t been able to come up with any tried-and-true conventions around how to behave in this new media-rich environment, so it’s easier to feel threatened and consequently to thrash about in what, in hindsight, looks like quite unwarranted ways.

    are any of the commenters here people who were at the party? it would be really interesting to hear from them.

  32. I spend a lot of time policing my photographs which I really hate. Most people really don’t understand any of this.

    Also, you are technically allowed to take photos in public places, although in some cities you can’t publish certain things. For example, in New York, the Port Authority “owns” the image of the Empire State Building, and you’re technically not allowed to publish it (of course, everyone does). Also, in some cities you need a permit to take tripod photos in public spaces (New York).

    What also complicates this is that the press can claim “fair use” for any photo or video you publish on your site, which basically means they don’t need to respect your CC license. Of course, they don’t seem to think “fair use” works in the other direction, which is an obviously going to amount to a big court case in the future sometime.

  33. [...] worth a thousand words and videos can be worth so much more. Unfortunately, you could run into some legal ramifications as a video blogger like the recent headache that Mostly Lisa had to endure. What are your rights? [...]

  34. [...] MostlyLisa.com: Lisa Bettany. Canada’s Sexy Geek Blog » Blog Archive » What are Your Rights as a… [...]

  35. I’ve just read most of the comments and I can honestly and sadly say that the only sensible comment out found here was the one from Brooks.

    What has happened to privacy? Is that not respected any more? I really hope that the majority of you understand that what is put online will be accessible for the whole world and what gets online can certain times be hard to remove as sometimes people makes copies of it (if we are going to take it a bit far).

    Why is so many of you (at least this is what it seems like) against people having privacy? Just because you managed to work out how to use a camera and post it online doesn’t mean my privacy should suffer. Just because you want to share your life with the whole world doesn’t mean everyone else wants to.

    Soon if we don’t start respecting people privacy and people start claiming it back, privacy will sadly be a luxury.

  36. xen, i hear what you’re saying, and it accentuates what i said earlier – that we really don’t have any workable conventions yet for this new medium. interestingly enough, i’d venture to say that privacy, in the form that we use/enjoy it today, is just as artificial as the internet itself. our notion of privacy is based on the idea of hyperindividuality which, when you look at the history of humanity, is a pretty aberrant phenomenon. don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying that we should not protect or cherish our privacy. to the contrary, if we really value our privacy, i suggest we have to take individual responsibility for it and be circumspect in situations where a breach can be expected to occur. and in a party like that – well, it was certainly to be expected!

  37. I know that video compared to photography is different in that with video you also record audio. In the U.S. it is illegal to audio record someone without their knowledge and consent. However, capturing someone’s image, whether still or in a video is perfectly legal per the terms mentioned in Krages’ article.

  38. I would get permission from the homeowner, but not everybody in the room. Here are my rules.
    1st – photographs and videos should have the same rules.
    2nd – if a property owner or representative tells you to stop filming the building or contents inside or filming from on the property, you must comply and stop immediately. It is their privilege. Everything filmed up to that point is yours unless they specifically say you cannot use it; then comply.
    3rd – the owner of a property might give you permission to take photos only for personal use so it’s might be best to always have an informed consent.
    4th – when money is involved from ads or being paid for your work, avoid signs, brand names, and trademarks if at all possible. If you film embarrassing moments of someone and make money from it you could be in trouble.
    5th – if filming for a news story, shots of people and celebrities, even in undesirable moments, is simply news and is filmed all the time.
    6th – if you were allowed to take the photos, and there were no restriction, they are yours, and so you can do what you want with them even selling them… so rules shouldn’t change when money is involved.
    7th – and finally, if someone requests you to take down the photos/video, then comply if at all possible. Why have someone unhappy with you?

  39. This was a great article I always wanted to know what was or was not legal to do when taking pictures.

  40. A couple of years ago, I started a thread, called:
    “My rebuttal to Lisa’s story”.

    I attended a boxing match, and a hockey game broke out!

    This thread later degenerated into into a childish debate over “Who has rights?”, but it’s a good thread.

    I want you to know, that, as a fellow photographer, I am behind you 100%. You go, girl!

    http://forums.techguy.org/civilized-debate/817649-solved-my-rebuttal-lisas-story.html

  41. Wow!!! Amazing the misinformation here. Please note I did not see the video in question, but I can provide some insight here for US laws. First, photography and videography are not the same. Video records audio as someone noted. The truth is that in most states ONE party to the conversation must give consent, in some states all parties must give consent to the recording. If you are videotaping (I know… what’s tape?), then it is very unlikely that you are a party capable of giving consent.

    Now on to the photography and video… which is the same. As a photographer you have the right to all material. Ask yourself some questions. “Was there a reasonable expectation of privacy? Was it private party, or was it open to the public. Were you videotaping in plain view or were you being secretive?

    Publishing: If you are publishing in a blog it is very much like any other news outlet. If you intend to use it for commercial purposes that’s when model releases, and/or property releases come into play, since they are entitled to compensation.

    Generally if someone says please don’t take/print/publish.. my picture, it is better for all of us photographers, videographers, journalists, artists, etc. that you oblige. Unless there is some very real pressing social issue that needs an expose.

  42. We are talking about friendship, logic, and legal responsibility.

    1) Friendship: You are shooting videos and photos with your phone. If other people are doing likewise the host should get all of you to the side and tell you not to post these on the Web unless she says it’s okay. If she doesn’t, she shouldn’t t complain later.

    Are these your friends? Do you want to keep them as your friends? Think twice, and be considerate.

    2) Logic: People can be sensitive about posted images and videos if they think their actions are not complimentary. You might enjoy seeing yourself on the Web, but if you had some gestures that you never thought about among friends, you might not like it where hundreds of people could view and review the same thing repeatedly and make jokes about it.

    If you put them on Facebook or YouTube set permissions as private. Send emails to your friends inviting them to view the videos and photos, but no one else except the party people can view them. Don’t make them public.

    3) Legal responsibility: For commercial use, you have to watch out for copyrights and registered trademarks. If you are not sure, don’t. If you are shooting a video of the front of a mall and a security guard comes out and tells you to stop, then stop. Even if you have three minutes of good video, dump it. You don’t have the right to use the video you shot before told to stop.

    For personal use, keep the three minutes of good video and just move on. Don’t argue about it. It’s not worth it. There are many other scenic moments to capture.

    When shooting pics of celebrities, no permission necessary. They got their publicity and wealth by being exposed to public and being on film. I know, “what’s film”.

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