Dear Socially Stephanie,
I have a non-profit that often deals with children. I have two questions regarding photo rights and liability. What level of permission do I need to post a photo on our page? For example, I was recently sent a photo by one of the veterans in our program. It was of him, his wife, and his stepson after he graduated college. I have a photo release from him giving permission to post photos of him in our social media and print materials, and in a FB email he said I had permission to post the picture of him and his family.
I was told by another coworker that because I did not have permission from the wife or the biological father of the child that I could not post this photo. If this is in fact true, my second question is: what are the consequences or liability regarding posting a photo like this? And if I always need permission from minors or individuals I obtain photos of, does that mean I can't post photos from fundraising and outreach events? Where do we draw the line?
Confused in Connecticut
Tricky question you have there. Before we get started, I want to make it very clear that I am not a lawyer. The information I'm going to give you is based on my personal experience; it's not professional advice and not legal advice. If you are concerned about the legal ramifications of any of your actions, I recommend going to a lawyer. That having been said, I did my research for you and here are some things you need to know to make good decisions.
First of all, the issue at stake is of someone who has graduated from college. Unless he is a child prodigy or Doogie Howser, it is likely that he is over 18 years of age, and thus you don't have to worry about minor privacy laws set forth by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998.
However, when it comes to children, it's a whole other story. You have to be very careful. Some states are changing their laws so that only parents can use images of children. If you want to use a photo that has a child in it, you should always get permission from the legal guardian in writing. While 57% of Facebook users with children under the age of 18 said they would be very angry if you didn't ask first, I personally don't think they would take legal action unless the photo was way out of line. They may just ask you to take it down or report it to Facebook, who will take it down. But beyond that, it's just safer for you to have your ducks in a row. And never post information about the personal lives of these children. Things like school information, home town or even their full name can get you in a lot of trouble.
Now going forward to protect yourself, I'd put clear policies in place. I'm sure you want to post the images online for promotional purposes, and if you have a lot of great events it'd be a shame to have to keep them in the dark, especially if this is a primary source of fundraising for your cause.
Here's what you need to know. First of all public events are fair game. This means photos of concerts, flash-mobs, or any other public gathering can be posted without worry. Next, if you are hosting the event, you could include a legal waiver that says when you buy your tickets you are acknowledging that you might be on camera, and that your organization has the right to use the photos for promotional purposes. If you want to take it one step further, and if it's possible, you could also make everyone sign a waiver upon entry.
As you want to showcase your organization in the best light, I'm sure you won't post pictures that might be harmful. With common sense, you'll stay in shallow waters.
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