Flickr Photos and Photo releases


Contenders DDR, originally uploaded by Lester Public Library.

Please read this post and the comments at LiB:

The one major goal (and you probably already guessed it) is the requirement to have a signed photo release form from anyone who is identifiable in any photos of using the library’s services, in the library, outside the library, anywhere. I know libraries that require releases only for photos with 5 or less people in them. I know libraries that require releases period, for every face, back of the head, profile, anything. I know libraries that only require releases for photos of kids.

Most of these came from our legal departments. And yet, when we are taking these photos people are in public places and have no reasonable right to privacy. So, photos are fair game, right? So I’m left wondering why these lawyers wrote these up. And my guess is distressing: that the library asked for it. That we asked for release forms for something that legally requires no release form.

Drill down a bit to this from Caleb in the comments:

It’s like a lot of people have forgotten that public libraries are government agencies and think of us instead as friends – why do we want to bust that bubble?

But we are institutions, and we have different responsibilities – and greater ones – than individuals do. We don’t always live up to them, especially not corporations, but I think that libraries’ actions regarding privacy or any other policy need to be well-thought out and well executed. Our photo albums are not personal, and digital ones are rarely in our control.

So I was thinking about my own practices recording video at conferences we put on, and I have to admit an opt-out notice is appropriate for gropus in public. When recording, I tell people in advance there will be video, the camera operators have instructions not to record people other than the speaker, and people asking questions can sit in the back and fill out cards instead of speaking out on the tape.

Clearly, this is an opt-out policy, but the important thing is that we find ways to let people participate without being recorded.

A friend at ALA asked me what the point of all this, and he called me out on libraries enacting strict policies based on worst-case scenarios. I don’t think that’s really the point – I am trying to model an ideal privacy behavior that I would expect from any institution. As institutions, we have power as well as responsibility, and cliche cliche, we can’t let ourselves abuse it.

Most of all, I want people to be engaged and fully participating in the event we are recording, and I think telling them up front what’s going on and what we plan to do helps that to happen. No one is surprised to see the camera or wonders what it’s for.

But yeah, it’s all happy medium.

Much to ponder about this. I advocate for presenting the face of the user and the library as much as possible, but I appreciate the comments take on establishing practices and “opt-out” instead of blanket bans on photos and a “police state” mentality I’ve encountered elsewhere.