University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Getting Permission to Use People in Photos/Videos

In the past few months, there has been a push at my institution to post more video on YouTube and related sites. I'm afraid we might have legal issues if we put handheld cameras in the hands of our students and just let them take shots of people around campus (or worse, people in other situations that may not be associated with the university). I know there are bound to be people who wouldn't want to likenesses of themselves to be used in public ways (the witness protection program is the extreme example that comes to mind).

I know that "model releases" are common when taking pictures of people for promotional materials. Do any of you have policies in place to deal with photo and video "releases?" Can anyone explain what the laws are governing these situations?

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We're dealing with this now. For our publications (and consequently, our web photos) we require a photo release for anyone who is recognizable as an individual. We have a lot of pictures of groups walking across campus that we don't use for this reason. If the distance is great enough, we can use it.

One of our main concerns for passers-by in a photo is FERPA. We don't want to run afoul of those folks!

Video is a bit different. When shooting on campus you have less control of who's in the frame and not. You can cut out a lot in editing, but you still want to have a fairly open and continuous look at the campus you're shooting.

I remember twenty years ago I visited DisneyLand. As we entered the park we saw signs that the Disney Channel was filming in Adventure Land and if we didn't want to appear on the Channel we should avoid that area until a specific time, when the crew would move somewhere else or pack up for the day. I wonder if that's a reasonable technique for us. If we wanted to film students circulating in the student center, maybe we could put signs on all entrances saying that we would be filming in a specific area for a certain period of time.

If we had a subject of a video (interview or such), we would certainly get a regular release from them.
I know some universities have a release statement on the application to the school so if a student is attending, they've already agreed to have their likeness used in promotional materials. As far as general passers by though, that's a tougher question that I have no answer for LOL :-)
Here is a good post tp read the "Ten Legal Commandment of Photography"

There is also this one which does the polite thing, always ask permission
For video recordings, we require a release from guest speakers - that is, people not associated with the College. Here's a copy of that:

The issue has recently been raised about expanding the scope of this form to require faculty and students to sign off as well. We're consulting with the lawyers, but it looks like that's the way we're going.
HI Guys
Great thread and very timely!
thanks for posting your release form

we are just beginning to get into this video-on-the-web wagon, and , while we always ask the subjects - in this litigious society, you just never know. I think having a form to sign for both guest speakers, and perhaps others who might be directly in liine of fire, is a great idea. May i use this as a model for our own school?
Thanks for posting that article Erin! I learned while studying photography that "if you can see it, you can shoot it" and most of the time "publish it" without getting permission/a signature from the person.
I believe most institutions are afraid of this truth because of the possibility someone might be offended or unhappy they end up in a published image. I always recommend that if your subject is highly recognizable and a focus of the photo, you get a release signed. (You're not going to get signatures from a crowd shot at a football game for example.)
Doesn't this get a little muddy, Michelle, when dealing with minors (highschool)?
Good question.
Taken from photography rights site:
You can shoot pictures of children; your rights don't change because of their age or where they are, as long as they're visible from a place that's open to the public. (So no sneaking into schools or climbing fences.)

Again, I think it's a judgement call and more of a courtesy/ and C.Y.A. to offer the release.
I'd be curious to hear what Brad Ward did at Butler (when he was there) b/c they had students out with cameras often. I wonder if they have one of those statements in the app materials that Karlyn mentioned.
If a student smiles at a camera, that's consent enough for me. :)

We told them that if they were filming a friend to take a separate video of that student speaking their consent into the camera. No one ever did it, and no one ever complained either. We didn't have any statement in our application, to my knowledge.
Great information in these posts. Great discussion people.
Erin -- We are also thinking about an opt-out system. Question: How to know when we've captured a photo of someone who opted out? Would the Marketing department keep student ID photos of all opt-outs on file, so they could be identified?

If anyone is working with an opt-out system, your comments would be appreciated. Thanks!



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