Tripod – Legal Talk


  • I hiked 14 miles to Trolltunga.  I’m exhausted, but it’s beautiful.  I want to show a person in the shot to give the location scale.  The person’s face is not showing.  Can I post the photo on my website and social media?
  • I took a photo in a national park that I really like.  Someone asked me if they can buy the photo, but I’m not sure because I didn’t have a commercial photography permit.  What can I do?
    • You’re good.  No issue.
  • I’m using the RGPS app and someone found my location and offered to pay me $300 to take them around for the day.  Part of our shoot was in a State Park and the park ranger threatened to fine me $5,000 for not having a permit.  Is that right?!?!
    • Yep, you’re outta luck pal.  Same in National Parks.  You REALLY have to check the law for the location you’re going, build permits into pricing, and also check local guiding laws.
    • My experience getting permit in Arizona
    • Getting permits in Zion and Glacier.  Require you to say WHEN and WHERE you’ll be at all times.
    • Call back until you get the right person.  Confirm no-permit with an email and get the person’s name.
  • I was driving to a landscape shoot and saw police arresting a drunk guy.  The police got mad at me for photographing them.  They threatened to arrest me if I did not leave and then after it was over they told me to delete the photos.
    • Dealing with LEOs
      • Give a VERY WIDE space to LEO when they are making an arrest.  They need to know who is safe and who is dangerous.  GIVE THEM ROOM to do their job.
      • If LEO is being polite and friendly, then don’t be a jerk.  Just help them do their job.  Their job is hard enough.
      • If LEO is being a jerk or you think there really could be some trouble, then be careful.  
        • Always give your name and identification.
        • Exercise your right to remain silent
        • If detained, repeatedly ask, “Am I free to leave right now?”
        • If arrested, narrate exactly what’s happening as it happens.
      • LEO can NEVER EVER delete a photo from your camera without a warrant–PERIOD!  In fact, they probably can’t even look at your photos.
  • I was in the Smithsonian museum when a security guard asked me if I am a professional photographer.  I said that I am and he asked me to leave, and also said I needed to delete the photo or he would take my camera.  What should I do?
    • You DO have to leave, but he cannot take your camera or make you delete the photo without a court order.  He may be able to detain you very temporarily until LEO arrives.
  • I was driving around the fields of Iowa and spotted some sheep in the morning sunrise.  I stopped and photographed the sheep as part of the landscape.  
    • Ag-Gag laws
      • Can be agriculture or livestock
      • Idaho’s got struck down.  
      • MANY federal courts have struck them down as unconstitutitional
      • In a practical sense, NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would sue you for this, because it’d be a perfect set of facts for the law to be struck down.
  • I photographed a house on Lombard street in San Francisco and sold it as stock.  Turns out a company bought the photo to use in an article about foreclosure.  Now the homeowner is threatening to sue me for both defamation and for me not having a property release to photograph the house.  Am I in trouble?
    • Yes, you’re in trouble.  Even if you’re right, this could be very expensive to defend, but you’re CLEARLY in the right here.
  • I was in Paris and photographed a church.  There was an ancient statue in front that is the center focus point in the photo.  Now the church is suing me for infringement on their copyrighted statue.  Am I in trouble?
    • You’re in PARIS, so US law won’t do anything for you.  However, it’s remarkable how well IP laws track each other in different countries.
    • The statue is ancient, so there likely isn’t any right to the copyright anymore
    • Generally, as long as you’re in a public place, you’re okay to take the picture.
    • Buildings don’t enjoy the same rights to publicity like humans.
    • You’re probably fine to do this.  No problem.
  • I was driving past a farm full of Tulips and got a great shot of the tulips and a windmill, which are both on private property, but I was shooting from the public roadside.  Do I need a property release to sell the photo as fine art or stock photography?
    • No, you’re fine.  You’re in a public place so you can take the picture.  The property release is rarely actually needed.  Courts have not been quick to allow this as it would infringe on freedom of speech.
  • I was teaching a photography workshop and a participant tripped over my tripod and really injured their knee.  They have asked me to pay for some of their medical bills and I’m worried about being sued. What should I do?
    • Just because someone got injured, and you may have been involved, does NOT mean you’re responsible.
    • They have to prove NEGLIGENCE.  They have to prove that somehow you set up your tripod in a NEGLIGENT manner, that you didn’t warn them, etc.
  • You are shooting a cityscape of New York and photograph a couple in the foreground kissing.  The photo clearly shows their faces.  You want to frame this photo and sell it at an art show.  Can you?
    • Probably yes.  Fine art photography is usually considered editorial.
  • I’m a wildlife photographer and photographed a monkey in a zoo with an out of focus background.  Can I sell the photo as stock?
    • Probably yes.

3 thoughts on “Tripod – Legal Talk”

  1. Jim, loved the legal episode with the scenario based approach. If you ever feel like you need another podcast to add to the already excellent stable of podcasts, this legal one would hit the sweet spot for me. Thanks!

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