Is It Right To Share Photos?

If you were shopping online and saw your face on a t-shirt, how would you react? Would it be a moment of surprise, shock, horror, delight…..?

Melanie Armsdon is one individual who encountered this situation and her reaction was one of shock. Ms Armsdon had published a selfie on Instagram featuring her hair in a multi-coloured vintage style. Despite the original photo being watermarked, the image was photo-shopped and, with the likeness remaining obvious, the final image ended up on a t-shirt offered for sale by an on-line retailer. Following her complaint, the retailer removed the items from the site and Ms Armsdon has since been promised compensation from the Indian manufacturers, but this may not be adequate to rectify the damage caused to her reputation.

This story highlights the risks associated with publishing photos on social media platforms.

Ailsa Pemberton

Ailsa Pemberton

The law makes it an offence to copy and publicise photographs without the owner’s consent even though the essence of a photograph is often considered to be a moment that was captured in order to be shared. The developments in social media and technology resulting in the ‘selfie’ generation, where photographs are frequently shared with the world, make it unclear whether that right is commonly respected.

These days, it is common practice to use social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to share personal photographs and for these images to ‘go global’ with a re-tweet, share or re-gram of the images. Where such images feature recognisable individuals it is important that the creator seeks permission from their prime subjects before use and should certainly be asked for permission before exploitation for profit.

But permission still doesn’t mean that others can ‘use and abuse’ these shared images and such unethical behaviour can very often come back to ‘bite’.

When posting a photo using social media, you do not give up your rights of ownership, and before a photograph may be exploited for profit it requires consent from the owner. Owners and creators must agree to the extent and reasoning of the images publication. So too, as mentioned above, must the subject matter or their rightful parents or guardians in the case of minors.

The legal protection over photographs of children is more stringent as there are a greater number of issues such as safeguarding and inappropriate use, according to NSPCC. Therefore consent by the Childs parent or Guardian should be sought before a photograph of a child is copied, shared or exploited.

This raises issues for parents who photograph events at their Child’s school. Does this mean that they must seek every child’s parental consent before sharing that photograph of their child running the relay race at the school sports day? Legally, this is not required where the photograph is for personal and family use only. But sharing the image on social media may require consent if it is public or available to a large audience. Schools therefore face a number of issues in protecting their pupils and even if they have gained consent for the taking and sharing of their photographs themselves, they may need to impose a ban on parents taking and sharing photographs of students in the future.

Maybe you will think twice before taking your next photograph and sharing it on instagram?

Ailsa Pemberton
Associate
Intellectual Property Team
APemberton@LawBlacks.com        
0113 227 9260

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