Discussion: What’s Legal vs What’s Ethical in Street Photography

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Instagram’s “Far-Reaching Terms of Use” Causes Groups To Rally Against Them.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Instagram for the iPad (1 of 1)ISO 2001-20 sec at f - 4.0

Instatgram, now owned by Facebook , has earned the anger of photography organizations in the US and Europe. They are joining forces because they are against Instagram’s terms of use. They argue that they are too far-reaching and unfair to users. The American Society of Media Photographers has joined forces with the National Press Photographers Association, The Digital Media Licensing Association, American Photographic Artists, This Week in Photography, Professional Photographers of America, Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage, Graphic Artists Guild and American Society of Picture Professionals in this campaign.

“The organizations believe that few of the users who share images on the site understand the rights they are giving away,” For more information read the statement issued by the ASMP, which has also published a series of essays and analysis called “The Instagram Papers”. The ASMP and other organization are planning actions to deal with these issues.

One of the biggest issues is the clarity of the user agreement. The organizations states that Instagram’s terms of use are too broad. Instagram’s terms of used benefits itself while infringing upon their users. In the Instagram papers it states the agreement gives Instagram perpetual use of photos and video as well as the nearly unlimited right to license the images to any and all third parties. And after granting this broad license to Instagram, photographers also relinquish the right to terminate the agreement.

When Instagram changed their Terms of service in 2012, there was a big backlash and many users left. This issues died down a little, but it still exists.

Vermont Rep. Figures Out a Way to Waste More Taxpayer Money and Possibly Harm Photographers

Will our photos have to become lifeless, by law?

Will our photos have to become lifeless, by law?

UPDATE: According to Pop Photo, the bill is unofficially dead.

While the image here may not be the most artistic in the world, many like it may soon become the way of things in Vermont. Bill H 233 was brought to my attention via a post on Reddit. This may lay the framework that could, ultimately, change the photography world in the United States as we know it. Bill H 233 A Vermont house bill, introduced by Representative Nuovo  of Middlebury states


This bill seems to have broad implications, which I do not think were considered. It does not only affect street photographers and people on vacation. It has me wondering, will journalists not be allowed to take pictures at public events? How will it be enforced? How much taxpayer money will be wasted on this?

Many images created of people without their permission have become iconic because they were shot in public. For example if a law like this had been in place in the past, many of our ‘This week in Photography History’ post would not exist. I hope that this bill will not be passed. A law like this should not be a priority with even more pressing issues happening, around the country, now.

What do you think of the issue?

Useful Photography Tip #7: Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s

Don't wind up behind bars

Don't wind up behind bars

Don't wind up behind bars

In light of the most absurd photography lawsuit I’ve ever heard of, I thought this might be a good time to remind you to make sure you always have your paperwork in order. It won’t protect you in every case, but a signed contract, liability release form, model release forms, copyright licensing terms and whatever else is needed for your specific business model. I say business, but even if you’re shooting for fun or as a favor you should still get your documents signed to be safe.  I recommended 3 books in the Business and Legal section of The Phoblographer’s Library. The free software PhotoByte can help you generate custom forms and many photography stores carry generic ones.

Although forms and signatures will help with these things, none of them replace the benefit of having liability insurance like that offered by Hill & Usher (866-977-4725 x134).

Finally, you should always be smart and work to avoid the problems of liability in the first place. Take a look at The Phoblographer’s Checklist on How to Not Kill Yourself in a Photo Studio if you do studio work, but just like each discipline has its’ own set of legal documents, the same applies for how to be safe in your type of photography.

The resources I have provided in this quick tip should help you figure out the particular risks of your business and hopefully keep you out of court and protected if you do end up there.

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