Do I Need Permission?

An Introduction to the Legal Aspects of Travel Photography

By Dianne Brinson,
a copyright attorney,
for PhotoSecrets

By Andrew Hudson Published: May 25, 2011 Updated: August 22, 2013

Before you take that photo, you may need permission for the following: Photographing buildings, works of art, or other copyrighted items; Photographing people; Photographing on public or private property. In this short article, attorney Dianne Brinson briefly discusses when permission may be required.


Under current U.S. law, copyright protection arises automatically when an “original work of authorship” is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression". A work is “original” in the copyright sense If it owes its origin to the author. For example, a photograph of Yosemite’s Bridalveil Fall is original so long as it was created by the photographer, even If it’s the zillionth photo to be taken of that scene. Only minimal creativity is required to meet the originality requirement, no artistic merit or beauty is required.

Works of art — sculptures, paintings, and even toys — are protectable by copyright. Furthermore, buildings created on or after December 1, 1990 are protected by copyright. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce a copyrighted work, and photographing a copyrighted work is considered a way of reproducing it. Thus, you may need permission to photograph a building or an art work.

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Here are some guidelines:


Only buildings created after December 1, 1990 are protected by copyright. Fortunately for photographers, the copyright in an architectural work does not include the right to prevent others from making and distributing photos of the constructed building, if the building is located in a public place or is visible from a public place. So you don’t need permission to stand on a public street and photograph a public building. You don’t need permission to photograph a public building from inside the building (although you may need permission to photograph separately-owned decorative objects in the building, such as a statue). You don’t need permission to stand on a public street and photograph a private building such as a church or a house.

This “Photographer’s exception” to the copyright-owner’s rights applies only to buildings, a category which includes houses, office buildings, churches, gazebos, and garden pavilions. The exception does not apply to monuments (protectable as “sculptural works”) or other copyrighted works, such as statues and paintings.


You may need permission to photograph a copyrighted work of art, for example, a statue in a public park, or a painting in a private collection or art museum. And getting permission can be tricky, because, according to copyright law, you need permission from the copyright owner, not from the owner of the work of art itself. In copyright law, ownership of the copyright in a work is distinct from ownership of the copy (the tangible item).

For example, suppose that you are taking photographs of a painting in an art collector’s private home collection. The art collector probably does not not own the copyright in the painting, the artist does. Unless your photograph of the painting is “fair use” (discussed later) you need permission from the artist.

When You Don’t Need Permission

You don’t need permission to photograph a work that is not protected by copyright (in “the public domain”). Works fall into the public domain for several reasons, one of which is expiration of the copyright term. In 1997, works created before January 1, 1922 are in the public domain. Also, works created by federal government officers and employees as part of their official duties are not protected by copyright. (This rule does not apply to works created by state or local government officers and employees).

You don’t need permission to use a copyrighted work in two circumstances: (1) if you are only copying facts or ideas from the work; or (2) if your use is “fair use".

You are free to copy facts from a protected work or to copy ideas from a protected work. The copyright on a work does not extend to the work’s facts. This is because copyright protection is limited to original works of authorship, and no one can claim originality or authorship for facts. Anyone can use ideas.

Fair Use

It may be that your photograph is “fair use” of the art works you photograph. If so, you don’t need permission. Whether a use of a copyrighted work is fair use is decided on a case-by-case basis by considering the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect on the potential market for or value of the protected work.

There is no simple rule to determine when an unauthorized use is “fair use". You are more likely to be able to rely on fair use for photographing copyrighted items if your work serves a traditional fair use purpose (educational, research, news reporting, criticism, or public interest). Fair use is always subject to interpretation.

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Fair Use

Publicity and Privacy Rights of Individuals

You may need permission to photograph people due to state laws giving individuals privacy and publicity rights.

Most states in the US recognize that individuals have a right of privacy. The right of privacy gives an individual a legal claim against someone who intrudes on the individual’s physical solitude or seclusion, and against those who publicly disclose private facts. Unless you have permission, avoid publishing or distributing any photo of an individual that reveals private facts about the individual (particularly if revealing those private facts might embarrass the individual).

Almost half the states in the US recognize that individuals have a right of publicity. The right of publicity gives an individual a legal claim against one who uses the individual’s name, face, image, or voice for commercial benefit without obtaining permission. In case you are wondering how the news media handle this, newspapers and news magazines have a “fair use” privilege to publish names or images in connection with reporting a newsworthy event.

Be particularly careful about celebrities. Using a photograph of a celebrity for your own commercial gain — for example, posting a photo you took of Clint Eastwood on your business’s marketing material or Web site — is asking for a lawsuit, even if you took the photograph when you ran into Clint on a public street.

Commercial photographers avoid right of publicity/privacy lawsuits by obtaining photographic releases from people shown in the their shots. If you are considering selling your photos or using them on your Web site, you may want to do the same. The Multimedia Law and Business Handbook contains a sample release. Experienced performers and models are accustomed to signing these releases.


If you are going to shoot commercial photographs on public property, you may need to get a permit from the appropriate government authority (usually a local or state film commission). Permission is generally not required for taking the usual “tourist type” photos (although you should obey any “no entry” signs you see).

If you are going to shoot on private property, get permission to enter and use the location for shooting and to show the premises in your work, in order to avoid trespass and invasion of privacy claims by the property owner.

The Internet

The laws and rules described in this article apply to photos used on the Internet. Copyright law and other laws do apply to the Internet, and posting a photo on the Internet exposes your photos to the eyes of the whole world.


This article is provided with the understanding that neither the author nor the publisher is engaged in rendering legal or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

About the Author

Dianne Brinson, a copyright attorney, received her law degree from Yale Law School and her B.A. from Duke University. A former law professor, Dianne currently teaches Law for Internet Users at San Jose State University’s Professional Development Center.

For more information, read the book Multimedia Law and Business Handbook, by J. Dianne Brinson and Mark F. Radcliffe (available from Ladera Press for $44.95 plus shipping, (telephone: 800-523-3721).

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Excerpted from PhotoSecrets San Francisco and Northern California.

Copyright 1997–2007 PhotoSecrets / Photo Tour Books, Inc.Please do not copy or reproduce on the Internet.You may print a copy for personal use, photo clubs, and education. Tips | Email


Reply by Anonymous

January 29, 2018

I want to take a picture of an mural in my school’s courtyard and post it on Wikipedia. Is that legal?

Reply by Anonymous

December 7, 2017

I painted 12 murals in a “friend’s” house. It took me four months. I was never compensated. Now there is a video of him “showing off his house” on YouTube.

This house has a stadium view from the deck and in the video “he’s pointing out the paintings” and the fact that the house is “covered in murals” of Univ. of Georgia landmarks and portraits of him and his son while attending UGA by an “artist he hired” (me). No credit given to me as the artist.

Each mural has been documented by me as I made progress — for him and a copyright logo with my signature on each mural. There was NO reason for the video except for personal acknowledge in the community as he told me he didn’t know but a few very well-to-do people in Athens, thus confiding in me he wanted to have an open house and invite only the 100 upper elite in the area, which never happened. Yet he had someone come take video mainly featuring my paintings. What to do?? HELP I live in FL-He lives in AL this is one of his homes and it’s in GA

Thank you.

Reply by Anonymous

May 17, 2017

Thank you for your article and all of your replies! I am wanting to start a Youtube channel and website (both generating ad revenue) cataloging my journey towards an IRONMAN triathlon. Most of my content would be footage of my workouts in a large gym (locations nationwide). They have a sign forbidding the taking of photos or video of people without their permission. I plan on asking gym management permission for my specific use and talking through guidelines they would be comfortable with, but I worry that they will tell me this is not allowed even though anybody captured on my video would be in the background. If they say no, am I still within my legal right to film my workouts at this gym? I also know you are not giving me legal council and that I need to get council from a local attorney. But I would love to hear your opinion!

Reply by Mel Weezer

May 5, 2017

Hi Andrew,

I take photos at gigs and concerts and am wanting to use my images on my website. (the main page and also in the news feed)

I’m not looking to sell the photos but my website will be generating money via affiliates. Do I need permission from the artists to use their photos? If so, would it just be for the main website page? or also for every time I post a pic in the news feed (talking about concerts).

Thanks for your time!

Reply by Anonymous

April 13, 2017

I am looking to travel to a couple of national parks/forests soon. I will basically be on “vacation.” I plan to take photos and some videos of the surrounding landscapes for personal use. No high quality equipment will be used, just a regular camera. My question is, will I need a permit for these locations if I also plan to possibly use these photos/short videos for a website I might create? The website will showcase travel deals from other sites and a may contain a guide on what to do in the area. about if a photographer uses their photos of national parks on their website to promote themselves? Will they need a permit to take those photos?

Reply by Anonymous

September 25, 2016

I am learning to paint by watching YouTube videos and reading painting books. I post these paintings on Instagram. Is there any copyright infringement? I am just sharing them and my paintings are by no mean close to the originals. Is this ok?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2016

This sounds like fair use to me. You are not making money from the artwork; you are not misrepresenting the work; you are doing this for educational reasons; and the artwork is already being shared on YouTube without (seemingly) a problem.

Reply by Akayama

August 26, 2016

Dear Andrew:

I recently completed a manuscript consisting of a multi-genre collection of short stories and essays. I would like to illustrate a particular story about a person who has recently died with a photograph of him I found online. I have been unable to locate the photographer nor the individual’s next of kin after months of trying. Can I use unattributed photographs of this deceased individual found on the internet or his own website?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

You are probably OK.

Three potential issues are: Copyright, fair use, and privacy.


Copyright applies if the photo was taken after 1976; or was published after 1923 and a copyright was registered and a copyright notice displayed. If the photo does not have copyright, then you can use it. If it does have copyright, then you should get permission from the photographer. If you can’t find the photographer, then you’re in a bind.

Fair Use

There are several factors that weigh in your favor for using a photo with copyright without permission:

• Your use may be legally considered “fair use

• Your use may be legally minor (de minimis) and not actionable

• If you can’t find the photographer, perhaps the photographer won’t know about and/or care about your use.

• Since the photo was published on the person’s website, presumably without permission from the photographer, then your use (which is similar) may also be OK


This is unlikely to be an issue since:

• The person is no longer alive, and was not famous

• Your use is illustrative, educational, and possibly editorial, and thus likely fair use.

Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Contact a local attorney for specific advice.

Reply by Anonymous

July 26, 2016


For an educational program, to explain modes of transportation, can we photograph different vehicles and use them. This will become part of the website which contains teaching aid material for free distribution for deserving schools

Thank you.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

Probably yes.

Since you will take the photographs, you will own the copyright so the images will be yours to use.

Since your use is educational, and the vehicles are in public view doing normal things, then your use is likely “fair use”.

Reply by Anonymous

June 21, 2016

If I take photographs of university buildings in Canada or the USA, do I need a property release to publish the photos in photo books or coffee table books?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 22, 2016

No. I’m not aware of a privacy or other law that you can’t do this, as long as you shoot a public view from a public viewpoint, do not reveal private facts or views, and do not include artwork or recognizable people.

Reply by CR Holland

May 9, 2016

I am creating a Shutterfly book for family of bride and groom. The photos provided are old school photos with no ID on them. I have requested and received release from Olan Mills for the one photo I can identify. What are the guidelines for using this type of photo for personal books?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016

Good question. I don’t know. Since the photos are presumably old and beyond their commercial use, and your use is personal, this might qualify as “fair use”. You could see if Shutterfly will accept them, as they are probably more legally exposed than you.

Reply by Anonymous

April 10, 2016

I am a fashion photographer. When I was a young girl in 1968 (age 13), I took some photos of my childhood friend, who is now a famous actress. Do I have the copyright to publish these in a book or magazine without the permission of the actress? She is very powerful and likes to control what is seen of her. She would probably reject the photograph. The friend posed willingly for the photo done in 1968. However time goes by and perhaps the now famous actress wouldn’t want the public to see her in those early photos. Thanks.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016

Hi. There are two issues here: copyright and privacy.

You own the copyright to the photos, since you took them. So, from a copyright perspective, you are free to publish those photos in a book without seeking permission from the actress.

The actress may have privacy rights, if the state where you lived in 1968 had such rights. Even if there were privacy rights at the time, this situation may not necessarily qualify as a violation of privacy/publicity since the actress posed willingly. So it is doubtful that the actress could use a privacy law to legally prevent you from publishing the photos.

Ask a local attorney for specific information.

Reply by T Morrell

April 1, 2016

I own an aircraft maintenance shop. I recently posted interior photos of our hanger which included airplanes that we are currently working on or in-service. A customer complained that we did not have his permission to post photos of his plane to our business Facebook page and asked them to be removed. I took the photos. Do we need his permission? Thanks.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 4, 2016


I believe that you do not need permission. I’m not aware of a privacy or property law that prevents you from posting online photos of identifiable aircraft that are in a “public” (e.g. in your hanger where people can go) place (unless for security reasons, or unless they reveal embarrassing or private facts).

However, you never want to upset a customer so, if you want, you could blur any identifiable info, such as the registration number (N-Number), logos, and personal names.

Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not a legal opinion — consult a local attorney for specific advice.

Reply by Anonymous

March 22, 2016

A company that I work for wants to take group photos from social media, get them printed out and display them on the wall inside the establishment with the photographer’s permission. Question is, do I need the permission of everyone in the photo to do this or just the permission of the photographer?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 25, 2016

Just the permission of the photographer.

The people were in public view so privacy is probably not an issue; money is not being made from the images so publicity is probably not an issue.

As you correctly point out, you need the permission of the photographer to copy the photo. You also want to ask the photographer for a full resolution version of the photo, as an image from social media is probably too low a resolution to print well.

Reply by Kilyle

March 8, 2016

Would like to confirm that photos I’ve taken of animals, if taken in public areas (parks) or from public areas (roadways), are mine to do with as I will, without any need for permission, even if the animal is recognizable -- and if there are any limitations to this.

I have photos of dogs in the park, of my family petting dogs, of friends’ dogs, and of farm animals such as llamas, taken while we were driving by a llama farm (if I recall, mostly field and llamas, a little bit of farm house and/or barn in background). Also, petting zoo animals.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi Kilyle,

I believe that you are OK and that there are no limitations.

Recognizable animals could have property rights, but I am not aware of any cases on this point. Animals do not have privacy/publicity rights. Since you were on public property, trespassing would not apply. I can’t think of any other limitations.

Reply by Anonymous

February 17, 2016

If I photograph the exterior of someone’s house from a public street and then use that photo in an artwork to be exhibited in a gallery (and for sale), do I need permission?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi. This depends, and I don’t really know. Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

You are generally free to photograph a house but making money may be an issue. If the house is recognizable, the property owner could claim that you are making money from their work. This could be “conversion”. But I am not aware of relevant case law.

“no court has recognized a claim for using photographs of private property.”

Attorney Carolyn E. Wright, Esq.

“We know of no case that has ever settled those kinds of questions. ASMP advises that property releases be acquired whenever possible because we don’t want to see you be the test ”


The nearest case law might be the “Dixie Plantation” case (College of Charleston v Ham, 2008). The publication of a photograph of a house was ruled not to be invasion of privacy.

“The court can see no way in which the publication of a photo capturing a beautiful image like ‘Plantation Road’ in any way ‘bring[s] [invasion of privacy] shame or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities.’ … [thus] Plaintiff’s invasion of privacy cause of action must necessarily fail as a matter of law …”

— College of Charleston v Ham, 2008.

Property rights vary by location, and is usually state law (not federal law), in the U.S.

“The requirements for a property release isn’t as clear-cut as for a model release, because there is no specific right of privacy that attaches to property, as it does to people. Having said that, ... [one reason] for obtaining [a] property release [is] ... on the basis that to use someone’s property for commercial gain without their consent may amount to an offence called ‘conversion’. ... iStock recommends that a Property Release be obtained when the image contains identifiable property wherever possible... The more recognizable and unique the property ... the greater the need for a property release.”


Reply by Anonymous

February 13, 2016

I regularly take photos of music artists that perform in our local area. Do I need permission to publish them on a local events site?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

I believe that you do not need permission to publish such photos on a local events site. This would likely be fair use as it is newsworthy.

Reply by Anonymous

January 27, 2016

I’ve taken photos of various dogs that walk with a local dog walker in a park nearby that I’ve interacted with. Am I allowed to use the photos I took for profit?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2016


I do not know of any law that prevents you from selling photos of dogs that you meet.

Reply by Anonymous

January 26, 2016

I recently attended an art show at a county convention center. Artists were from around the world. I asked at the admission desk if i could take photos. They said no problem. When I saw a painting I liked and the artist or the gallery rep was there I asked if I could photograph the work. No problem most said.

Can I mount 8" X 10" inch photos of these works on stretched canvas frames and sell them at craft fairs?

I’m already selling sunrise photos I’ve taken myself. My price for all is or will be $10 to $20 each.

Hey! This is a hobby. Just trying to cover my costs and add to my social security.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2016


Selling your photos of other people’s artwork is copyright infringement. You are making money on the backs of other people’s creativity.

The rep may have given you permission to photograph the works (possibly for your personal use), but that was not permission to sell copies of the works.

To do this, you need to license the work from the artist. Next time, take some release forms with you for the artists to sign. They may not want to license their work to you, particularly for free. Alternatively, you can go online and license artwork. Or create your own artwork. Or sell photos for landscapes, etc.

Reply by Adele

January 9, 2016

Hi Andrew,

I have written a children’s book that I plan to publish. The illustrations are a mix of drawings by my daughter (she is the book designer) and photos that we have both taken of a trailer that I own, and the yard surrounding it (but not showing any neighboring yards or trailers). I rent the space.

These photos include pictures of things like planters, dishes, curtains, ceramic yard decor, furniture. The trailer itself is a rare 1969 vintage coach built by a company long since out of business. For future books in the series, I plan to present some historical research about this line of trailers, along with restoration tips. All of the objects are portrayed as charming or fun; none are derided. Also, the individual items are not the sole focus of the photographs, they are shown in groups or arrangements, either as backdrops, or to create ambience for a story point, such as watering flowers with a watering can.

As an artist, I also make functional collages of recycled objects (like birdbaths made from thrift store dishes and miniature ceramic people & animals). These are also in the photos.

Are any of these "decor" items and/or the trailer itself, copyrighted, and do I need permission to include them in the photos in the book? I can have representational drawings done instead, but they won’t hold as much interest for vintage trailer enthusiasts, who will enjoy seeing actual photos of trailer life, and sharing the experience with their kids and grandkids.

Reply by Anonymous

November 20, 2015

A picture of my daughter was used from our wedding on the vendor’s website without our permission. Is this legal? We do not post any pictures of her on the Internet at all. The wedding was family only! It was supposed to be a private event, so does that not make it a violation of privacy? Can someone please let me know what I can do?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 8, 2016


Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Sorry to hear of your situation. Try contacting the vendor directly and ask them; perhaps they have children and understand your concerns.

If that fails, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) (15 U.S.C. 6501) may help you. Children aged 0–12 are protected from having identifying information (such as photos) posted online without a parent’s permission. The law is aimed at websites that collect data from children, but maybe it can be applied in this case.

“An operator is required to obtain verifiable parental consent before any collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children...”


You could contact the vendor, and/or the vendor’s website hosting company, and demonstrate your awareness of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. That might be enough for them to remove the offending photos.

Contact a local lawyer for more information.

Good luck.

Reply by Anonymous

October 23, 2015

This article needs a rewrite. My main problem with it is that there seems to be a lot of confusion between the taking of a photograph and the publishing of a photograph. Several times the article will elude to you needing permission to take a photo but then the discussion talks only about the publishing of the photo. In fact many times you do not need any permission to take photos of many things, but the publishing of those photos may be where the real issue lies. This article doesn’t properly separate those two distinct facts.

Unfortunately this article may make people think that when in public places open to anyone that they may need to get permission to take photos of easily viewed things such as people and buildings. The act of taking a photo in a public place of things easily seen by the public almost never require anyone’s permission (and I use "almost" but can’t think of a single case where you would). This is a completely separate issue from most of what you have written above which is mainly concerning commercial use and publishing of photo.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 11, 2016

Hi. Thank you for your detailed and concerned comment.

This article was kindly written for PhotoSecrets by Dianne Brinson, a copyright attorney, and I think she did a terrific job condensing a complicated legal landscape into a short, readable article.

For more detail, please see:

Reply by Paul

October 20, 2015

Hi Andrew,

I’m working on a animated video for a band, which is in the style of Monty Python animation, using existing images in collage form. Many of the images I have gotten from Google Images and altered and combined into unusual and humourous collages. If they are altered but still clearly visible as being the original image i.e. faces of people, objects, etc., is this liable for copyright infringement?

The video would be used on Youtube and other music blog sites as promotional material for the artist.

Thank you


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 11, 2016

Hi Paul.

You may be OK. When artwork is repurposed to give it new meaning, this is called “transformative use” which is a type of fair use.

“Although such transformative use is not absolutely necessary for a finding of fair use, ... the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use.”

— Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 579 (1994).

Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice; ask a local attorney for specific advice.

Reply by S

October 19, 2015

Hi Andrew

I have an ongoing project, part is a foundation and part is a company. Pictures of street art will be included. I’ve done my work trying to contact the authors of that street art only one responded back. First question is a sample contract for royalties or commission. Second question is if they do not respond (30 plus days already) can I print and if I do can I or should I also refer to the artist if the "artistic name" shows in the photograph? I’m willing to pay the fees but being it is street art I cannot get a hold of the artists! They are all over the place and do not answer my emails or messages! Any thoughts? Thank you!

Also, if street art is registered, where can i find out if it is?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 11, 2016

Hi. Yes this is tricky. I suggest you contact a local lawyer with your specific situation.

Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

It is possible that your use does not require permission. Use that is in the public interest (such as news, criticism, commentary, archiving) can be fair use, which would bypass your dilemma.

The more your use is for commercial or private gain, the more likely it is that permission is required. Since you mention “royalties” I’ll assume that your use is commercial. In that case, you need permission. You are in a Catch-22 situation if you can’t contact the copyright owners. A good-faith attempt to contact the artists may help you in a court case, and may indicate that the artists are not likely to sue you. But you should get the input of a local attorney to review your situation.

A sample contract would be called a “property release” which is similar to a model release. For example:

I hereby grant permission to , their agents and successors, to publish, license, and use photos of in . Signature/date.


Reply by Jay

September 27, 2015

Hi Andrew, I have a question. I just finished writing my autobiography. I have traveled the world and met some hot girls. Let’s say I am in a photo hugging a girl and I also wrote a story about her from when I was in her country. Do I need her permission to use it in my book? Also does that same rule apply to if I want to post other single pictures I took of these girls? As well as if I was in a photo with family, friends? Please let me know soon if you can, I’m about to publish soon and I don’t want to get sued!


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 12, 2016

Hi Jay,

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice; consult a local attorney for your specific issue.

Generally, the requirement to get permission stems from privacy law. So you could see what, if any, privacy law there is in her country. See this handy chart from Wikimedia.

If you are just recounting facts and things that happened, then your use of an illustrative photo inside a book is potentially fair use.

So it sounds like you are probably OK. But ask a local lawyer to be sure.


Reply by Beth

August 30, 2015

I hired a carpenter to build a screened porch. He posted pictures of the before and after on Facebook advertising his business without my permission. Can I do something to get him to remove them?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 12, 2016

Hi Beth,

You could ask him.

If he refuses, you could argue that this is your private property and he should have asked for a property release before using your property to make money for his business.

Alternatively, you can request Facebook to remove the images. Facebook will remove images that violate their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. See How to report things and image privacy rights.

To report a photo:

Click on the photo to expand it

Click Options in the bottom right

Click Report Photo

Reply by Anonymous

July 28, 2015


I am making a small, no-budget feature film intended for distribution. My question is twofold.

1. If I use a military helicopter in the film (such as the HIND), would I need permission from the military or aircraft manufacturer (though no logos would be shown).

2. It seems that the majority of films I have worked on (as crew and actor) use any vehicle they please, so long as the logo is not featured. Would this be a reasonable assumption to make, or should I seek out the vehicle manufacturer’s permission (I already have the owner’s permission).

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2016


1. No. You have the owner’s permission; you do not need permission from the military or manufacturer.

2. Yes. Movies cover up the logo as that is protected by copyright law and trademark law. Distinctive design elements can also be trademark protected. But the rest is generally just property and, as long as you are not doing anything that would tarnish the reputation of, or imply endorsement by, the manufacturer, you are probably OK to use the helicopter.

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice; consult an attorney for specific advice.

Reply by Anonymous

July 10, 2015

The guidelines above say, “You don’t need permission to stand on a public street and photograph a private building such as a church or a house.” But is that also true if the photograph is later used as, say, a book or album cover to sell a product commercially?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2016

No, not necessarily.

You can take the photo, but you may need permission to use that photo on a commercial product. For more information, see Can I use this photo?.

If the building is an identifiable house or business, you would be wise to get a property release. Some distinctive new buildings can be protected by trademark law. See buildings to avoid.

Reply by Anonymous

July 2, 2015

I’m an artist and am painting on my canvas a copy of graffiti that I saw on the side of a wall on the street. Since it’s public property, is it legal for me to do so?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2016

Yes, if for personal use; no, if for commercial use.

Although the wall may be public property, the graffiti is artwork protected by copyright.

If you want to sell or license your canvas, you would need permission from the graffiti artist. See artwork and derivative work.

If your canvas is just for you, then that would likely be fair use, which would not require permission.

Reply by Boris

June 12, 2015

Hi, a supervisor shushed me away from photographing a construction work site today, using the argument that the workers have a right to privacy. He argued that the chain link fence surrounding the site had a semi-opaque wind-screen on it, indicating a right to privacy (even though in fact, only some of the fence was thus screened).

I was standing on public property (a sidewalk), not touching his fence (which he asked me not to do, and I do recognize that is private property, the contractor’s property). But I was standing on an elevated support with a tall tripod, shooting over top of the fence. He said, and I quote verbatim, "I can ask you to stop shooting over this fence." I was very tempted to reply, "I’m a photographer, I can ask you to take your clothes off!"

But I held my tongue - I want to remain on friendly terms!

I’m fairly sure I’m within my rights. The construction site is a public works project (i.e. the owner is public, not private, though the contractor is private), and I’m standing on public property, overlooking a site that is mostly plainly visible from the street. The privacy argument seemed weak, but that is the argument that I’m most interested in (shooting down).

The other thing I’m interested in is how can I get the supervisor (or the contractor) to allow me my rights, without making enemies of them.

I’m shooting for personal use, nominally (my kid is really into construction stuff, and I’m shooting 3d for display on our 3dTV - and no, nobody else has ever shot this kind of material for 3d display, otherwise I wouldn’t bother). I’d be interested in what it would take to allow commercial use, if it ever came to that.

Can you give insight?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 16, 2015

Hi Boris,

Privacy is a local (state) law, so it depends upon where this took place. But I’m not aware of any privacy law that supports the supervisor’s position.

The semi-opaque fence is probably only a privacy issue if the people reasonably expect privacy behind the fence (such as a bathroom or bedroom). But, since the workers can be seen by other workers, they probably do not have a privacy right while working.

Additionally, privacy is a personal right, and not owned by an employer, so it’s doubtful that a supervisor could defend privacy rights of workers.

If anything, the supervisor is challenging your rights.

In the U.S., you have a First Amendment “free speech” right to photograph what you can see from a public viewpoint, even with an elevated support and tall tripod. So you could claim that the supervisor’s actions are harassment.

As for “how can I get the supervisor (or the contractor) to allow me my rights”, you could research your state’s privacy law yourself, or consult a local attorney for specific advice.

Best wishes,


Reply by Anonymous

June 12, 2015

I took a photo of an amusment park and the surrounding mountains/ area (sort of panoramic view). The roller coasters and parking lot were the main focus. I took the photo from a hill top near the park. I was not on the park’s property and it was in public view. And the area I took the photo from was open to the public. Is permission needed to re-sell and profit from the image?

Thank you

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 16, 2015


Generally, a reasonable photo from a public viewpoint is OK. A similar landmark case on this topic is Rock and Roll Hall of Fame v Gentile, 1998 where “fair use” allowed a photographer to sell prints of a photo taken from a public viewpoint of a property that claimed trademark protection.

Consult a local attorney for specific advice.


Reply by Anonymous

May 26, 2015

I recently photographed my city’s water tower, man hole and recycle can, all of which has the official city logo painted on them. I have been informed by the city that I must either remove the images from my shop or pay the city a percentage of sales. Is this legal?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 29, 2015


That is interesting. I’m not sure what law they could invoke to stop you. Many cities license their logo on products for sale, but you are taking photos of public property in public view, which is a protected free-speech right (in the U.S.).

The two main intellectual property rights are copyright and trademarks.

Copyright: The city may consider the logo to be copyrighted artwork. But since your photos are not solely, or mainly, of the logo itself, your use may be a fair use. If the city chooses to put a copyrighted logo on the water tower, how else can one photograph the water tower without copying the logo?

Trademark: Many logos are protected by trademark law. See if your city has registered a trademark at Trademark law is very narrow and only prevents customer confusion. Since your customers can plainly see that you are not claiming to be part of the cit, or endorsed by the city, then there is probably no customer confusion so probably no trademark violation.

Lanham Act: This is a federal law to prevent unfair competition. But you are probably not competing with the city.

A similar landmark case is Rock and Roll Hall of Fame v. Gentile, 1998. Despite a trademark claim, the photographer was allowed to sell photos as fair use, since customer confusion was deemed unlikely.

Ask your city to clarify what law you are violating and then review your standing with a local attorney.

Reply by Anonymous

May 23, 2015

Hi Andrew, I’m creating a hand out for potential clients for a realtor. Can I use exterior photos of a house or yard for this handout without having the homeowner’s permission? It might also be posted on a website. Thank you for your time.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 29, 2015


You should get permission. Since you are using the photos on advertising (which is a “commercial”use), the homeowner could complain that you or the realtor is making money from their property. Homeowners may have commercial publicity rights depending upon the privacy and property laws in your state. By getting permission you avoid potential problems.

Alternatively, you could use stock photos from an agency such as Shutterstock.

Reply by Anonymous

April 3, 2015

I want to create a funny picture book by taking my own pictures of funny postcards and souvenirs I’ve collected on my travels. I want to sell the book to the general public. Do I need to get permission from the creators of these items if the items are copyrighted? The photos would be of shot glasses, refrigerator magnets, postcards, etc. Thank you.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 21, 2015

You probably do not need permission as your use might be considered transformative, which is a fair use.

Reply by Anonymous

March 14, 2015

A garage I am in dispute with over significant delays in specialist work intends to allow a vehicle magazine to take photos and publish a story of their work on my vehicle. Are they allowed to do this? It’s annoying they can present themselves well in this way despite their poor customer care. Also it could potentially increase my vehicle’s theft risk. I am in the UK.

Reply by M

March 7, 2015

Hi Andrew,

I was wondering if I need to get permission from the Uffizi Gallery to use a photograph I took there in the mid 90’s. The photograph is of an ancient greek statue I intend to use, (in a derivative sense) as a screensaver for commercial use.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 13, 2015


Probably. I don’t know of a good reason why you could not.

The statue does not have copyright, as it old, so you can freely use an image reproduction of the statue. (See public domain.) For example, there are many photos of artworks in the Uffizi Gallery on Wikipedia.

However, the Uffizi Gallery, like many others, claims property rights since the statue is on their property (and not visible from a public space).

You must request permission ahead of time, and obtain a permit. If you just arrive at the museum as a tourist, you will NOT be able to take pictures inside the museum, even without the use of a flash.

Uffizi Gallery

I don’t know how enforceable this is in Italian law. In the U.S., this may fall under trespass. Since you’ve already taken the photo and left their property, I’m not sure they can do much (other than deny you entry the next time you visit.)

Reply by Anonymous

October 12, 2014

Hello, I was at a concert and took a picture of a singer. I would like to add this image to my photography website. Is this considered legal or illegal? I was given permission to go in front of the barricade to take this photo. Thanks for your help on this!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 3, 2014


Yes, I think so. Factors in your favor are:

1. You were given permission to go in front of the barricade to take the photo. That seems like explicit permission, or at least implied permission, to take (and therefore publish) the photos that you took there.

2. Your use seems innocuous — you are not misrepresenting the subject; you may even be promoting the singer.

3. Your use seems minor, not worth objecting to, see De Minimis.

4. Your use seems non-commercial — you are not making money from the images, and you are arguably not reducing the value or potential profit of the singer.

If the singer is famous, you could run up against publicity issues. But, being given permission to take the photo would seem to mitigate that. And, if anyone objects, you can always remove the picture from your website.

If you want to sell the photo, that might be a different issue.

Best wishes,


Reply by Anonymous

October 2, 2014

Hi? please help me on this question, if an original work of thought is under copyright are you allowed to print out copies and sell them to tourists?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 8, 2014


A thought is free, but the text of that thought can be under copyright. If you copy that text, and make money, then you are effectively stealing from the original author. So no, you cannot generally sell copies of a work under copyright. You could write your own (original) text of the thought and sell copies of that.


Reply by Anonymous

September 20, 2014

I have photographed the inside of a church and used it for my google account - is this wrong?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 8, 2014

That sounds fine! Presumably you photographed a “public” view, what anyone walking in to the church for free can see.

Reply by Barbara

August 12, 2013

I want to use a photograph that I took of a home I was renting as a cover for my new novel. Can I do this without the permission of the owner of that property?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Barbara:

Thank you for your question. Hmm, this is a good point and I really need to research the subject more and write and article.

Certainly you would be best to get permission from the property owner, especially if the photo is an interior shot (e.g. taken on private property) and is being used on the cover (which can be regarded as “commercial”). However, I am not sure of specific laws that a property owner could use to require permission, particularly since you (presumably) paid the owner money to rent the home. This is likely to be an issue of local law, so you could check with a lawyer familiar with the jurisdiction where the home is located.

Best wishes,


Reply by Deborah Cramer

August 7, 2013

I have photos of people taken 30 years ago. Some are random and some people I know. I want to publish a photo documentary - do I need their permission?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Deborah:

Thanks for your question. You probably do not need permission for general street photos used in a documentary. For more info, check with a local lawyer and see privacy.


Reply by Maxine Dean

July 26, 2013

the photos I wish to copy are shots of landscapes and are common knowledge. I just thought I needed permission from the website owner to use.

Is any information gathered thereon available for the intended public therefore grants permission to use otherwise, right?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Maxine:

Photos on the Internet are usually protected by copyright, so if your use is commercial you would likely need permission for use.

You can safely license photos for little cost from microstock companies.


Reply by Maxine Dean

July 26, 2013

I am writing a book, when published, don’t know yet. Was wondering if I use information and put in my own words like how people survived in the rocky mountains and what they ate to stay alive, do I have to get permission from the web site to use it? may use photos of said area for scenic emphasis as well. Whereas, the info and such is on website so anyone can have free use? It would be good advertising if mentioned in book, yes. advise asap. thank you, maxine

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Maxine:

If you rewrite information in your own words then you don’t need permission from the source (although it is polite to quote the source). You would need permission for the photos. As for good advertising, that is something you could mention when requesting permission.


Reply by Christy

March 23, 2013

I’d like to print and sell a postcard of a statue overlooking a waterfall that is on private property. It is a common place for people to visit and is even listed in tourism guides. There is a sign that states the public is allowed on the property as long as they follow a few rules that are posted. There is no mention of photography in the list of rules. Do I need to get permission to sell photos of the waterfall?

Reply by Claudia

March 18, 2013

I work for a publishing company (insert irony here). And they sent an email out saying they are going to come around taking pictures of us and upload them to their website. I do not want to be on a website with millions of eyes on me. I have already expressed my disinterest. Is this legal for them to take pictures of me without my permission?

Reply by Alexis

March 15, 2013

I am working on a children’s book that entails using answers to questions posed to children in Sunday School class. For instance: "if you could change the world, what would you change?", and so forth. If I do use their answer, I would only use their first name (if provided). I am also open to not using any name at all...just the response. I would prefer not having to seek permission on such a small project.

My question: do I need to get permission to use some of their responses in a book I am putting together, whether with only first name or no name at all?

Reply by Ross Hoppus

February 28, 2013

I am a military member. I am trying to make a video using online and archived photos to help inspire interest into joining the Air National Guard Weather career field. All of the photots I got from the internet or sent to me by a photographer via CD copy. Am I in the clear to give this video to our state recruiter or do I make a more detailed credit list at the end of my video?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 5, 2013


Hi Ross,

It would be wise to include a list of source material. The images from the photographer are probably owned by the photographer, so include a note that those images are copyright of so-and-so and used with their permission. The images from Internet are more problematic as those images likely have copyright and you don’t have permission from the copyright owners.

However, if you are not making money from this video, and you are not publishing it, you are unlikely to get sued. So, in that sense, you are likely "in the clear" to give the video to the state recruiter.

The publisher (the Air National Guard) would be responsible for ensuring that any required copyright permission is obtained before publishing.

Best wishes,


Reply by Beatrice LIEHN

February 22, 2013


Ten years ago when I was in Finland I took a picture of a drum which was exposed on the wall in a Cafe. Please can you telle me if I can join this foto in a book Im writing

thank you very much for your answer

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 5, 2013


Hi Beatrice,

Yes. Unless the drum included some significant and recognizable copyright artwork or design, then you are free to use the image that you took.


Reply by Armando Conte

February 20, 2013

Can I use 6 seconds of a video in the public domain for a charity fundraising>

Many thanks

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 5, 2013


Hi Armando:

Yes. If a video is in the public domain then anyone (including you) can use it for any purpose (including charity fundraising).

Best wishes,


Reply by Dave

February 11, 2013

My business partner and I built a hydroponic grenhouse business and designed a new system that eliminates problems of current systems. We had an issue with the greenhouse structure and the greenhouse company wanted to visit and inspect the install this was December of 2012. We just recieved a 300 page 2013 catalog from this company. Plastered in their Hydroponic section were images of our system! We never gave any permission for the pictures to be taken or to be published in a national catlog. We are in process of patenting the product. What are our rights?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 5, 2013


Hi Dave:

This is a good question, but out of my scope. This appears to be not so much an issue of copyright as an issue of trade secrets and unfair business practices.

Consult a patent or business lawyer for specific information.

Best wishes with your new hydroponic greenhouse system.


Reply by Muralist

February 8, 2013

I worked on a mural with two other artists. We each painted two panels separately. We volunteered to paint these murals through a local art club. The art club purchased the canvases, we the artists painted them, which were then give to the city.

A local professional photograper video taped us and our artwork, and gave the tape to the local art club to use. The local art club sent me a letter stating they want to use my images for financial gain and will give me ’something’....all pretty open ended.

I have not signed anything with either the photographer or the art club. The video recently was shown in a public forum without my permission by the art club and they want to put it on youtube. I have also expressed to the photographer that I was not happy with the video and did not sign his release. Do I have any rights here regarding the photographers use of my artwork images, and with the art club making a profit from my work without my permission? BTW the other two artists signed the letter and sent it back..I have not.

Thank you.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 5, 2013


Hi Muralist:

Well this is a bit murky. You might want to contact a local lawyer who might send a cease-and-desist letter on your behalf.

As an artist, you own the copyright to your work. Since several artists worked on this particular mural, the mural would likely be considered a “joint work.”

“The authors of a joint work are coowners of copyright in the work.”

— 17 USC §201(a)

Thus, any reproduction for profit would require the permission of all the artists, including you.

Now the local art club may try to claim ownership or part-ownership as they sponsored the mural and supplied the canvases, but this claim would probably not stand. They did not hire you (as a full-time employee) so the mural is not likely to be a “work made for hire.” And they did not contribute original artistry so they are not co-owners of the joint work. They may own the canvas but not the copyright.

The videographer, also, does not own copyright to your mural. (The video of your mural is a derivative work).

To enforce your rights, a good approach would be to consult a lawyer who would probably start with a cease-and-desist letter.

Best wishes,


Reply by Anthony

January 24, 2013

Hello I am a street art / street photographer. I’ve photographed graffiti works on the side of the Lacma in La from public view from known artists & photographed ’legal / authorized" street art in notable alleys in San Francisco.. My question is: am i allowed to make canvas prints of the legal/ and or illegal streetart and sell them? Btw I also edit these images of street art in numerous ways can I print and sell them? All original pics are my own if you would like to see a sample of photos I’ve taken you can view them on Instagram under @AnthonyAye Thank you for any help

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2013


Hi Anthony,

You would probably need permission of the mural artists to sell your photos of their work. See Permission: Artwork.

Since the artwork is viewable from (and indeed is purposefully displayed in) public viewpoints, there might be a legal argument that you could sell your photos since they are merely of public views. (This can be called Freedom of Panorama, which is legal in the UK but not in the US.) But I am not aware of statutory law or case law to support that theory.

You should consult a lawyer for specific advice.

Best wishes,


Reply by LBS

January 23, 2013

Hello, I am a digital collage artist. I have mostly given my work away as birthday cards to family and friends. I have an offer from a company to buy a piece of my artwork as stationary note cards. I have used some images that I found online using google images, I know that I need permission from the owners of those images before selling my collage art. What I don’t know is when I find a picture of a pinball machine and want to use the image of the backglass of that machine in one of my collages that will eventually be sold and mass produced, do I need to get the permission from the photographer that took the picture of the pinball machine or the actual artist of the pinball machine backglass?

Thank you so much for your help. You are doing a real service here for artists everywhere. LB

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2013



Good question. The answer is: the actual artist. If your artwork incorporates an artwork that is (a) copyrighted; (b) recognizable to the artist; and (c) used in a significant way, then you should get the permission of the artist for commercial usage. You do not need permission from the photographer if the photograph is a straight-forward shot of the artwork, since such a photograph does not contain sufficient originality itself. BTW, what you are creating is legally called a derivative work.

In the future, instead of using Google Images, get the photos from a licensing source, such as (See Directory: Stock Photos). Then you can legally sell your collages.


Reply by KB

January 16, 2013

I’m a teacher and my students are learning how to use Photoshop. We recently completed a project where the students used famous paintings/sculptors and superimposed themselves in the artwork. Next to their work, we have included the original artwork as well as who the artist is and the name of the artwork. Do you think I have violated any copyright laws by doing this project?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2013


Hi KB,

No, I do not think you have violated any copyright laws by doing this. (That is my personal opinion; I am not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice).

A legal exception to copyright law is fair use. This specifically permits “… reproduction … for purposes such as criticism, comment, … teaching … [that is not of] a commercial nature … [and does not affect] the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” (17 USC §107). Your use would seem to fit well within this exception.

In addition, the original works may be old enough to have fallen out of copyright protection (see public domain, and the students’ finished projects, with their added creativity, would be derivative works, which have some protection themselves.

Best wishes,


Reply by Debra

January 13, 2013

I was renting my house to people who stopped paying and I had to evict. I have since found out they had a HUGE party there and a music video is posted on Youtube showing it. Do I have any grounds against the artist? I went to court and was awarded a settlement, but have yet to receive anything.

Reply by Steven

January 3, 2013

Hi Andrew,

Pertaining to the photographs at a concert question. I’m going to write two books of poetry and want to include photos of Alice Cooper taken by me at a concert. Can I do that or do I need permission?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2013


Hi Steven,

You should consult a lawyer about this, and I should research an article on concert photography as many people ask this question.

For the photos that you took of Alice Cooper, you own the copyright. So, absent other laws, you could freely publish the photos in a book.

But Alice Cooper (or his management company) may be concerned about publicity rights. And the concert venue may be concerned with property rights. I do not know how this would all fall out, so I should research that article and you should call a lawyer!


Reply by Rob

December 28, 2012

is there a law that states you can’t video in a gym like a La fitness and post it on youtube

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2013


Hi Rob,

There are probably local laws based on the right to privacy. Sorry, Idonot know of specificlaws, but somone else recently asked a similar question so I should look into it.


Reply by Mark A

December 23, 2012

Dear Andrew, I have an ex-employee that during his employment did many after hour photo sessions without out our consent. We built our studio less than 12 years ago and it has many one of kind backdrops etc.. Is our building and the contents copyrighted? Thanks for any advice, Mark

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2013


Hi Mark,

You should consult a local lawyer as several issues likely apply here.

You might be able to win based on copyright law alone. If the person was a full-time employee, (or, if not, was employed specifically to take photos), which it sounds like is the case, then the copyright of all resulting photos belongs to you. Thus, they are infringing your copyrights by publicly displaying the photos. The threat of a copyright suit could bring the offending photos under your control.

Employment law might help. That is a local issue, and is helped if there was an employment contract.

As for your backdrops, if they have specific images or recognizable designs that you or your company created, then you probably have copyright protection. Photos taken by someone else that prominently use your copyrighted artwork are considered derivative works, which you could prohibit based on your underlying copyrights.

Your building and contents probably do not have copyright, just your artwork.

Let us know how you get on!


Reply by B. Ryan

December 17, 2012


If a street photographer who charges for Polaroid pictures has a large collection of ’blooper’ photos that were taken of paying patrons on the street, can she publish these in a book & sell them? Tracking down the individuals involved could prove impossible since the photos range from the 1970s to the present. Thank you in advance for your advise!


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2013


Hi B,

I need to write an article on street photography.

I imagine that the main issue here is privacy/publicity. It would be better if you did have signed model releases. But, since your subjects knew they were being photographed by you, they may not have a strong case to complain about your book of bloopers.

You could ask a local lawyer to review your presentation before publishing.


Reply by Hailey

December 12, 2012


I had a situation where some one in my gym class was videotaping the class with her phone. She did not ask permission to do so. Phones arent allowed acc to gym rules.

This woman has taped some minutes from classes before and posted them on her FB page & the instructors. There were some things in one video that would have been embarassing to one woman in the class and there were some comments posted making fun of her.

I want to know if its within my rights to stop the videotaper from videotaping or taking pics w/o permission and posting on Fb even if its a gen group of people. Some faces are clearly recognizable and mostly from behind.

I suspect some of the images and videos are used to promote/ increase marketability of the instructor & the videotaper.

I am clearly uncomfortable being videotaped in a exercise class and told her to stop. Am i right to do so?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 5, 2013


Hi Hailey,

Talk to the owner, manager, or staff of the gym. They can prohibit videotaping since they have property rights, and they could ask the person to remove all such videos from Facebook.

If the gym does not act immediately, you could claim to them that your privacy rights are being threatened. There is probably some good case law out there (that I do not know of) since many gyms have signs posted prominently about no videotaping due to members’ privacy.

You could complain directly to the person, but legally you may not have a solid case since the class is probably deemed to be public.

Your best bet is to get the gym owner involved as they have the stronger case.

BTW, congrats on keeping fit!


Reply by Jordan

December 12, 2012

Hi, I am just wondering if someone can use photos they took themselves of my animals to advertise their own business. I would prefer my animals not to be used in their advertising. Thankyou.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 5, 2013


Hi Jordan,

Unfortunately yes, people can use photos that they take of your animals. This is because, unlike people, animals do not have privacy rights.

You do, however, have property rights. So if people need to come on to your private property to photograph your animals, you can prohibit commercial photography, or deny them access. (If people can photograph your animals from public property then I can not think of a way you could stop them, apart from hiding or relocating your animals.)

Best wishes,


Reply by Bradford

November 30, 2012


I made an oil painting from the cover of Sports Illustrated. The cover featured a well-known football player. I have been trying to to find out how I can ask permission from SI, but I cannot find any info online or from their magazine. I don’t intent to sell the painting because I am not a professional painter. I just wanted to post this on my FB acct to show to my other painter friends. Will I have a problem with posting this? Also, the local high school and library wants to show this for a week or two in their lobbies. Will it be okay for me to lend the painting to them for showing? Thank you very much.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 3, 2012


Hi Bradford,

You are probably OK for personal use, such as in your house and showing directly to friends. For FB, you could include a factual statement about the source image and its copyright, to credit the source and demonstrate that you are not trying to claim original copyright or profit from your copy. Technically this may be copyright infringement (since the display is public) but SI is probably not losing potential money here so they might not complain.

This is similar to the "Hope" poster case, where the copyright owner complained when money was being made from the image, which you are not trying to do.

Best wishes,


Reply by S H Smith

November 20, 2012

My rental agent rented my house for three days, as a vacation rental. I discovered that renters had brought in a film crew, including gaffers and caterers, ladders, a large camera truck was parked outside and filming or photo shoot was going on. They were instructed to stop by agent, but it was end of day and shoot was ending. Do I have any recourse to sue, or stop whatever they were creating there, as my house, and contents might be in the still or moving film? they did not ask permission or inform us of their intention. thank you.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 3, 2012


Hi S H,

Unfortunately you may not have recourse to sue. A representative of yours made the house available in return for a fee, which was presumably paid. If the rental agent got the film crew to sign a contract which specifically prohibited the usage you describe, then you might have a case for breach-of-contract. If the finished film shows artwork that you created, personal photos, or other recognizable images of you and your family, then you could try a copyright or privacy complaint. otherwise, since your agent accepted the payment and let them in, it is hard to think of a recourse for you.

Reply by Saul

November 17, 2012

I want to use a picture of a building that i found on google images for a business card, can i do this or do i need permission? The picture is on several other websites and blogs.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 3, 2012


Hi Saul,

Since you did not take the picture, you may not have the right to copy the picture, particularly for a commercial use such as a business card. You should research the source of the picture. You can cheaply license similar images from microstock agencies.

Best wishes,


Reply by Arthur Okeke

November 15, 2012

I want to Start a Magazine, But i want to make sure that am doing the right thing here. Please i need to know,

1. if i take a celebrity picture online and use it as my cover page, am i in trouble for that.

2. If i list names and pictures of the most richest people in the world on my Magazine pages inside the magazine, Is that safe for me to do. Please can someone please advice me on this. Thanks

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 3, 2012


Hi Arthur,

1. Yes you could be in trouble for that. The picture has copyright, so you would need to get permission to use it. As the cov of a for-profit magazine, this would likely be "commercial" use, which you would likely have to pay for. And the representatives of the celebrity may object to you using the person’s image to sell something.

2. You can list facts. You should include the source of your facts, to show that you’re not making up the "facts". Pictures have copyright, so see above.

Copyright and celebrities are two tricky subjects, you should get some legal advice before proceeding.


Reply by Pattie Price

November 11, 2012

Hi Andrew. John Lennon signed a get well card for me in 1967 with a great message. Would it be possible to use this message commercially?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2012


Hi Pattie:

Good question. I imagine that you could, as I can’t immediately think of a law that would prevent you, particularly since the message was given to you by John Lennon himself.


I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Reply by LGold

November 3, 2012

Do I need permission to write a book on family secrets? With first names, events places so forth that are not exactly positive?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2012


Hi LGold:

You don’t need permission to write the book, but you should be wary of issues such as libel and privacy. The more you offend someone, the more likely they are to sue you for damages to their person and reputation. Make sure you get your facts right!

Best wishes,


Note: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Reply by Marisa T.

October 29, 2012

Hi Adam,

I’m about to publish my first book and I’d like to include the following type of photos in my book. Do you have any insight on whether I have a right to publish them without permission?

1. Live band shots: I photographed several live bands in small local venues. They aren’t doing anything compromising, they are simply on stage playing their instruments. Do I have the right to publish these in my book since I was the photographer?

2, Personal photos: I have a few personal photos of me and friends that I would like to use. I also have a picture of me and a well known celebrity. Again, there is nothing compromising in the photos of me and my friends or with the celebrity. There’s no alcohol, drugs, nudity etc. All photos are posed and everyone in the picture knew the photo was being taken. I’m not in touch with many of the friends and certainly not the celebrity. Can I use these photos?

3. Ads in a magazine: There was a full page band ad printed in a local free magazine about 20 years ago that I would like to use in my book. The ad was used to promote a show the band had at a small club. The photo does include scantily clad women across the laps of the band members. The local magazine no longer exists. Because the ad was for promotional use, am I able to publish it in my book without causing a lawsuit?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 29, 2012


Hi Marisa:

I get this question a lot; I should write an article on it.

Concert photos are tricky. The artists have publicity rights, and the venue owners have property rights. Similarly, a celebrity has publicity rights, and a magazine ad has copyright. You would need permission for commercial usage. You might be OK if your use is considered fair use.

You should consult a lawyer for advice on your liability here.

Sorry to be a downer!

Best wishes,


Reply by Lizbeth

October 11, 2012

Hi i really hope you can help me with this... i want my wedding photo shoot on a carnival o fair like "the oc fair " or something like that... do i need permission for that??? Thanks

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 26, 2012


Hi Lizbeth:

That sounds like a fun wedding!

Legally you may need permission. The OC Fair charges admission, so they may dictate rules for photography. Property owners are more likely to stop photography if large groups and/or bulky equipment such as tripods are involved, as this may obstruct others and possibly be dangerous. Private, personal photography may be allowed, which might cover a few people being photographed with a hand-held camera. But large obvious wedding groups would probably need permission.

Try contacting the fair and asking. They probably have a written policy which might be available on their website.

Best wishes,


Reply by D

September 24, 2012

I am a music artist and professional photographer. I recently went to the beach with friend and her family. Upon arrival I was given a camera and asked to photograph her family. Later while looking through the pics I noticed a single picture of me that was taken whith out my knowledge. The picture was at a poor angle and showed some unfavorable features. Does this person have the right to take this picture without my permission?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 26, 2012


Hi D:

Assuming that you were on a public beach and not in an embarrassing or private situation, then someone who takes a photo of you can generally use that photo. However, since you did some work for this person, you could ask them not to use that photo.

Best wishes,


P.S. I am not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

Reply by Herb Robb

September 17, 2012

While in Europe I photographed a hand-engraved limestone plaque of the Lord’s prayer in latin. It was mounted on the outside of a cathedral built in the 1400’s. Would fair use permit using my photograph to laser-etch the lettering on

another surface for charitable and/or commercial purposes?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 17, 2012


Hi Herb:

Presumably you are OK. I don’t see how a handwritten plaque would get copyright protection, even if it weren’t (presumably) very old.

Best wishes,


Reply by GT

September 5, 2012

I am an artist ( iam the sole owner of the reproductions rights of my art). I licensed my art to an art publisher for reproduction work. They photographed my work and then gave me a DVD disk of the photos of my art that was shot by a employee of the company who was under License. They didn’t ask me to sign for the images or ask for any limitations. My contract ended as did the license to reproduce my images. but they wan the images back? Aren’t they mine? Since they were under a term license and they gave me the image of mine???

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 6, 2012

Hi GT:

Do they want the DVD back, or do they want you to stop using their photos of your artwork?

For the DVD, that sounds like property and if they gave it to you with no conditions then it would appear to be now yours.

For the photos of your artwork, they probably do not qualify for copyright protection, since a straight-on photo of artwork may not have enough originality. A landmark case on this is Bridgeman Art v. Corel, 1999 which said “[No copyright] where a photograph of a photograph or other printed matter is made that amounts to nothing more than slavish copying.” For more, see originality.

Reply by Mike

September 4, 2012

I have an interesting question which relates to some of the comments above. Am I allowed to take and sell pictures of in the inside of bar/restaurant. For example, I want to take pictures of the bar-top for a collection of local bar-top photo poster, if no individuals are caught in the photo, do I need the bar owner’s permission? Any legal advice would be greatly appreciated.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 6, 2012


Hi Mike:

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. The main issue here might be trespassing. If a bar-owner says get out or asks you to stop, then they may enforce that request if it is their property. But otherwise you would appear to be OK. A related case is The Yankee Candle Co. v. New England Candle Co., 1998 which, according to Wikipedia, held “that an individual shop within a mall does not qualify as a ‘building’ under 17 U.S.C. § 101. The case clarifies the scope of the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA).” Since your photos are intended to be “communicative,” they may be protected by the First Amendment due to Porat v. Lincoln Towers, 2005 which held that “communicative photography is well-protected by the First Amendment.”

See Case Law: Property.

Reply by Lola Pearl

August 29, 2012

Good Afternoon,

I am a local photographer who is just starting out and I take pics of performers in a local club. Normally I never have issues, but one performer never bothered to credit me for the photos I took of her in a public pagent. I am now using releases on everyone and everything. But do I need permission of the club to take pics of the performers since everyone who shows up in this club takes pics? Never had a issue before and don’t see another one from now on. Thank you for your help.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 6, 2012


Hi Lola:

That would seem to be an issue of trespassing, which would be up to the club to dictate. If the local club allows you in, does not complain about your photography, does not post a sign about “no commercial photography,” and does not stop other people from taking photos, then the club may be OK with photography.

See Trespassing.

Reply by Kathy

August 10, 2012

I am an artist and have taken photos at festivals of different people in attendance. I think that they are OK to paint if the painting does not really look like the person. Is that true?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

August 23, 2012

Yes, that sounds reasonable. As long as a person cannot identify themselves you are generally OK.

Reply by Mark

August 8, 2012

I took pictures of paintings in Europe showing scenes of plague epidemics for use in my microbiology classes. All of the paintings were made before 1800. I would like to make my pictures freely available to interested people on the Internet. Am I correct that I do not need permission from museums that own these paintings because copyright has expired?

Many thanks!


Reply by Ken

August 5, 2012

If photos are taken of storefronts from outdoors (on private or public property) or within a privately owned mall with no permission from the owner, would use of thumbnails in an online directory in which advertisements appear (some of which may be competitors of the photographed storefront), would fair use apply?


Reply by Louis

August 2, 2012

We have found photographs of our church exterior and interior online and would like to use those photos in various publications for the same parish church, such as the Sunday bulletin, annual report. Does the church administration need to obtain permission from the photographers to use those pics? We do not ever require that photogs asked our permission to shoot in our church, built in 1929. Thanks.

Reply by Denise

July 23, 2012

We took photos of Covered Bridges and have some outdoor pictures of places no people. We were thinking to sell some of these photos as a side business. Does the law stop us from selling a bridge that would be state park on some?

Reply by Eric Jarvis

July 6, 2012

If I find a thrown away computer and discover pictures on the hard drive, am I allowed to use those pictures to post or sell?

Reply by Peta

May 30, 2012

In the circumstance where a photo of two people has been taken off a personal Facebook and used for a publication to accompany a story which negatively implicates one of those people, does the publisher need permission from one or both of those people? Or, is it allowed due to the expressed opinion of the person who wrote the article and is only an accompaniment?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 27, 2012

Hi Peta. There are several issues. Copying a photo without permission is infringement unless the use is "fair use" which news reporting and criticism both are. Negative implication, if untrue, can be libel/defamation. If a person is shown in a personal/private situation then that could be an invasion of privacy which is often a local/state law.

Reply by Andy

May 6, 2012

I know of an artist who has created wax/resin images form photographs of celebrities. does he need to get their permissions if he places the images in a public space and charges for viewing.

Reply by Kurt

May 19, 2012

I have a question. Can pics of tattoos be published without permission if they weren’t done professionally and they don’t include the full name of the person who wears it or the artist/person who created it??

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 27, 2012

Hi Kurt. Tattoos would likely be considered as artwork, so to sell photos, legally you would need the permission of the tattoo artist. But just displaying the photos without making money may be OK as "fair use."

Reply by Erik

May 1, 2012

I’d like to create my own text for an automotive class that I will make available to my students at cost and possibly a bit more for future software purchases. Can I take pictures of things like an vehicle parts, a quart of oil, tools in use, etc. and use those images in this text? Thanks.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 1, 2012


Hi Erik:

Yes, I imagine you can take pictures of standard automotive things and use them in an educational class software without permission. I don’t see what law would prevent you.

Best wishes,


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.

Reply by JoZie

April 17, 2012

i used to work for a famous rock band for years. i have an amazing collection of images from behind the scenes( i am in some of them) i have decided to work on and sell in galleries. do i need permission?

they may be mixed media, photo/painted/collage.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 1, 2012


Hi JoZie. Cool, that sounds like it was fun. The main issue here would probably be the publicity rights’ of the band. You might want to get permission from the manager of the band who may want to confirm that the band is being shown in a positive light.

Good luck!


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.

Reply by Doug M

March 29, 2012

Can i post a photo on the net of a person if they forbid me from posting the photo to begin with? (Illegal parking shot)

Located in NY and photo was taken in Queens,NYC

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 5, 2012

Hi. If your photo was photographed from a public viewpoint (e.g. a public street) then generally yes, you can post it. I don’t see what "right" the person has to "forbid" you.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice.

Reply by Sarah

March 23, 2012

I have a question when filming in a range of locations but not focusing on the building just the lights do you need a consent form signed. The same for a motorway?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 5, 2012

Hi Sarah. I don’t see that you need anything signed if you are photographing general things from a public viewpoint.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this isn’t legal advice.

Reply by Renee

February 6, 2012


I have been a patron at a dance club that has a sign posted that when you enter the building you may be video taped or photographed and these photos become their property to use as they please which may include internet or advertising purposes. I am in Florida. The owner posts all her photos on their website and her own personal facebook for people to comment on. Is this legal ? Does "the sign" really give them permission to use pictures of me? Thank you ! Renee

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 8, 2012

Hi Renee. That is a good question. If the dance club owns the building, then they can control access terms. (If they rent or otherwise don’t own the building then I don’t see they can do anything.) If you don’t like their terms you can choose not to go to that dance club. Since the club is not making money directly from your image, and they are using the photos to demonstrate fairly what happens at their club, then their use is probably "fair use."

Reply by Arthur

November 4, 2011

Let say, if I wanted to do some photography on property that does not show any signs stating its a "private property, no trespassing" and end up got caught by security and they and tells me that I am trespassing on private property? What should I do? leave on premise or should I confront them about my rights?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 8, 2011

Hi Arthur:

Thanks for your question.

If you are on private property, the owner can ask you to leave, and then you should leave. There does not need to be a warning sign posted. You do not have a right to be on private property, it is a privilege which can be denied. Your rights apply on public property.

For more information, see here.


Reply by Jim

August 25, 2011

If a video/photo is taken of one of your subcontractor’s workers who are working your site (no facial, just side and backs of them working the site and unless you were there, you would have no reason to believe it was them) .. are there any problems with posting those images on a video?

I took video of my job site. For years I have hired the same sub contractor to do the labor with my equipment. I took video of them operating my equipment while they was working my job sites that I contracted with them. I recently fired him for poor quality of work due to a number of complaints and damage to property. 5 months later, he is stating that I do not have permission to post his crew working the site. I only published photos / videos of the good quality of work that was done for advertisement purposes. He knew that I was doing this for the past 6 years. What do you think?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

August 25, 2011

Hi Jim:

That’s an interesting question. I can’t think of any problem here. The only issue would seem to be privacy. But that shouldn’t apply since you were in a public place, the people knew you were photographing them, and they didn’t complain. Also, privacy belongs to the individual, not the person/company who hired the individual, so your ex-sub-contractor does not seem to have any legal standing. I don’t see what "permission" you should need from him. Of course, I am not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice, just an opinion.

Best wishes, and I hope you’ve found a better sub-contractor.


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