What are photo privacy laws?
By Andrew Hudson Published: September 27, 2011 Updated: October 29, 2013
There is a patchwork of local laws protecting people’s “right to be left alone” — which, in our viewpoint, means a right not to be photographed in a private location.
A quick guide to photography and privacy
When taking a photo:
- You can photograph people who are openly in public view — for example, on the street, on the beach, in a park.
- You can’t photograph people when they’re out of public view and in a private area, such as in a bedroom, changing room, bathroom, doctor’s office, etc. People are permitted a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
When selling or publishing a photo:
- You’ll need a signed model release if the use of the photo is commercial, such as for an advert or the cover of a product. This includes celebrities, even though they’re “public” figures and even if you photographed them in a public place. (Editorial, factual, newsworthy purposes are OK).
- The display of the photo can’t be maliciously untrue, or humiliate, ridicule, or reveal embarrassing and personal facts about a non-newsworthy person.
In the U.S., there is no federal statutory law on privacy. Instead, many states have privacy and publicity laws, and there is a wealth of “common law” (previous court rulings) that protects people.
For more information, see privacy.