Inside by the Fire courtesy of Lester Public Library
That’s Gil. He’s enjoying the newspaper and the fire at Lester Public Library. The cliché says a picture is worth a thousand words but I must agree that the story this picture tells about what patrons will find at LPL is pretty darn priceless.
With this in mind, have you seen “Laws for Using Photos You Take at Your Library” by Bryan Carson?
Carson covers the best ways to use photographs taken at library events and in the library for promotion:
It is clearly a violation of the right of publicity to use photographs from library programs in order to market or advertise the library or to call attention to future programming. You should always get written consent if you plan to use images for these purposes. If the subject is under 18, the parent or guardian should sign a consent form.
One way to get around this problem is to take photos that don’t include identifiable people. For example, you could take a picture of the crowd from the back of the room. That way, you won’t have to worry about being able to see faces.
The law is a bit more lenient toward pictures that are published in a newspaper or library newsletter. Because the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, news media may publish names, likenesses, and images as long as they are part of a “newsworthy context.”9 (Even news media are forbidden from using photos or other images for commercial purposes.)
This adds much to the conversation that the Librarian in Black also covered a while ago. This is the bit that I got hung up on: (emphasis mine)
A library’s newsletter qualifies as news media. Online blogs and “recent events” websites are also considered to be “news.” However, the photographs should only be posted for a limited amount of time. (One source suggests no longer than 2 weeks.10) Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites create new issues. The problem is the limited amount of time that “news” images can be posted online without requesting permission from the subject. The right of publicity applies equally to blogs, websites, and social networking sites. So I do not recommend using Flickr or other such sites to archive photographs. It is important to be sure that you are really doing a “news” story on the event that just occurred rather than promoting future programs.
If I understand this correctly – and I must confess that reading too much legalese makes my brain shut down – this is the gist:
If you are using Flickr in your library to create an extension of the library’s Web presence and share the vibrancy, excitement and story of the library via photos of programs, activities, events, spaces and faces, you need to have permission for all subjects that are identifiable to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit. And they must not be archived as “news.” And it might be best not to use Flickr (is it implied that the other sites are off limits too?).
This perturbs me: in this age of user-generated everything live on the Web and libraries spending staff time and resources to create online presence in this emerging landscape, why are we creating roadblocks centered around laws created/discussed in the late 1800s and early 1900s? And pictures of the back of heads would get old very quickly on the library web site. I want to see the people who make up the library, not someone’s french twist.
Carson goes on to outline how libraries can design photo releases and archive them. The details are well-presented and well-researched – and cited.
I certainly believe we should acknowledge and respect people’s privacy, but I also think using Flickr (and Facebook, MySpace, blogs, etc) are part of a new landscape of participation and inclusion. The law needs to catch up with these tools. I would hate to see any libraries stop using Flickr because of fears of a lawsuit – which in libraryland gets bantered around to much as a reason to NOT do a whole lot of things.
I love what Hennepin County did with their Harry potter promotion. The online form is the photo release. I wish it could be this easy in public to collect photo releases. I just hate the thought of asking every single person at some of the events and in the wonderful libraries I’ve highlighted here on TTW to sign off or for the teens to get mom and dad’s permission.
More here: http://tametheweb.com/category/flickr-rocks-my-world/
If you plan to utilize images with identifiable people for public relations, marketing, or promotional purposes, always use a written consent form. (Oral consent is worth the paper it is written on.) If the subject is under the age of 18, be sure to get a signature from a parent or guardian. You don’t need permission to run a story about a recent event in your newsletter or on your blog. However, the story really has to be about the program, not just a promotion for the next event. And check with your institutional attorney or records manager to find out how long you need to retain the signed forms.
Librarians who follow these principles and receive advice from records managers and attorneys should be safe from lawsuits. That’s the goal of your attorney and of this article.
I think the goals of extending the library and promoting the community trumps that one, but I am not an attorney, nor do I play one TV. I think the context goes way beyond what is immediate “news” to the library and to its community – public, academic, etc. Henry Jenkins notes we are all now creators and participants in media, not just passive viewers/readers. How does the publicity law apply to this permutation?
“Photos and videos that appear on the library’s website may be gathered from public programs, events, and library spaces. Photos, images and videos submitted by users for online galleries or contests may also be used by the Library for promotional purposes. To ensure the privacy of individuals and children, images will not be identified using full names or personal identifying information without written approval from the photographed subject, parent or legal guardian.”
Works well for me! Thanks to Jeff Dawson, LPL director who shared the statement with me as I was writing this. It covers the bases as far as I can tell without being over the top.
I’d also like to know about other libraries that have made this work – and that might have forward thinking attorneys who are exploring what it means to create a chronicle of participation in the library, not just report the “news.” I advocate for social tools in libraries and I want to make sure my thinking is where it should be.
There has to be some new middle ground – blanket photo permissions for public events at the library, posted notices that photos will be taken, etc. I am not well-versed in the law – and that’s why I do appreciate the issue this article addresses, but I need to understand this more and would love to hear from folks out there.
This doesn’t seem that different from what libraries have always done: collections of community photos, a history collection, etc. Why does the online social component make it weird?
My gut tells me there is a legal, useful place for this type of engagement online and US law needs to catch up sooner than later. Hiding behind a fear of a lawsuit might do more harm than good to many libraries that want to extend presence.