Photography of Children / Old People on Websites

  thegreypanther 09:35 27 Jan 2008

I run a parish website, which includes a "News Page" with stories of events within the parish. Many of the stories are illustrated with photographs.
Yesterday I arrived to take photos at an Old Persons party, to be used (without captions) on the news page of this website.
I was approached by the Priest to be told that two people had objected to photography, on the grounds that photographs of young children and old people were subject to restrictions. As young children and old people were "subject to protection", then photographing them for publication on a website could only be done with their express permission and subject to certain conditions.
I find that, if this is the case, then things are going too far.
Could anybody please enlighten me as to what rules / regulations might exist for photographs such as this, - e.g. photos of people taking part in parish activities which are to be used in a news page on a website.
Or is it just that there are some ultra-conservative, technologically backward individuals who are doing all they can to resist the internet?

  Forum Editor 10:55 27 Jan 2008

were wrong - children and old people have no more protection under the law than you or I when it comes to being photographed.

You may photograph anyone in a public place without his/her express consent, and may publish the photograph with full copyright protection. You own the copyright in the image, whether or not the subject gave his/her consent.

So far so good, but.....

The owner (or leaseholder) of a private property has the right to forbid photography, even if the building is freely accessible to the public. Local authorities (and Parish councils) may forbid photography in their buildings or on their land.

Unless you are expressly forbidden to publish the photographs by the owner of the property you may do so with impunity, at least as far as the law is concerned you may. In small communities it may be wise to take a more tactful approach, especially if you have to meet the subjects of your photography in the Post Office, or the local pub.

Technically the two people who objected were wrong however - there's no special protection for children or old people, and you do not need anyone's express permission.

  thegreypanther 11:50 27 Jan 2008

Thank you, Forum Editor.
Your reply has very much reassured me.
However, I am now going to have to think long and hard about how the parish website is to be run, or even whether it is to be continued.

  mco 13:53 27 Jan 2008

I was under the impression you could only put photos of young children on the internet with the permission of their parents - I am a teacher and we have to get parental permission (we do it annually on a one-off basis, getting them to sign a form) to allow photos of children on our Moodle. I didn't think you could just 'publish or be damned'. Perhaps this isn't the law, if you're right, FE; perhaps these are just guidelines? I was also told you should preferably photo several children together rather than individuals and not name names.

  Patr100 15:03 27 Jan 2008

You might notice that newspaper photos often pixellate the faces of the children of celebritiies but these measures appear to be a result of Press Complaint Commission Guildlines/ Code rather than the law.

click here


  Forum Editor 19:39 27 Jan 2008

Where photographs are concerned a child has no more protection under the law than an adult. You may legally photograph a child without any consent whatsoever, and you may publish the photograph if you wish, as long as you don't include with (or near) the image any information that might identify the child.

People tend to confuse Press photography codes of practice with the law. Press photographers will have a code of practice that prevents them from photographing a child without parental consent, and of course a minor (someone under the age of 18) can't sign a contract,which rules out getting children to agree to being photographed.

Your school rule is just that - a school rule, it's not the law, although it is probably a local authority guideline.

One problem facing photographers of street scenes is the Data Protection act, because it states that a person must consent to the capture and storage of personal information. It can be argued that a photographic image is personal information if it allows the subject to be personally identified. Theoretically a member of the public could make a complaint to the Information Commissioner if you took a photograph without consent, but in practice this very rarely happens. Even when it does, the Commissioner's staff are so under-resourced they don't have the time to deal with relatively minor issues. In effect this means a complainee would have to take civil action against the photographer, and very few people bother. A court would see the key issue as being 'what, if any damage was suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the image being taken and published?' and almost invariably the answer is 'none'.....which is why almost no cases of this nature come to court.

To sum up: You may photograph anyone you like without getting any consent, and you may publish the images as long as you don't identify the individual. If you plan to make commercial use of the image it's as well to get a consent first, but it's not necessary - you own the copyright in the image anyway.

  mco 21:34 27 Jan 2008


  Bansaw 19:49 30 Jan 2008

You have to be a bit careful.
We had one woman object to her child appearing on a poster so we had to take the kid out.

One method is to take as many of your shots from a viewpoint where you're mostly getting angles which conceal their identity (as far as can be expected).

Another method is to use Photoshop to blur the background.

If you're doing a group photo you could also start off by saying "we're taking a photo that might appear on the website. Is that OK with everyone?" Those that object you can ask to stand to one side for a moment.

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