Blog: Social Media Tips

Consent For Use of Photos, Videos, Images and Audio Recordings

consent for images

Have you ever noticed that video news footage seldom shows faces anymore. When the camera is focused on a crowd it is likely you will see bodies from the neck down or from behind. When the story involves a school, you will see backpacks, legs and shoes. You will not see faces.

These decisions are driven by the right to privacy of an individual in this country. Increasingly, news outlets are extremely cautious to include any footage of persons from whom they have not received consent and authorization. When minors are involved, the law is even more stringent in its intent to protect the minor’s privacy.

Who Needs To Get Consent?

I’m not going to address copyrighted images. That is another blog on its own. This blog deals with photos, pictures, videos and audio recordings and their inclusion on posts in social media. Do you know when you need consent? Here are some guidelines.

  • Inclusion of people images on a personal social media profile.
    You do not need consent and authorization as long as you are not generating revenue (often called “commercial use”) from your social media profile. But if you do any associated marketing or charge for subscriptions or generate revenue in any way, the person in the image can sue you. So, taking a group selfie at a concert or at the mall or at a dinner party is okay. However, taking a photo at a minor’s sporting event is risky. Get verbal approval from any other parents to use the photos. Avoid using identifying images of children you do not know.
  • Inclusion of people images on a commercial business’ or nonprofit organization’s profile.
    For the sake of this article let me use these definitions for two key terms: consent and authorization. Consent is acknowledgment and/or agreement that the image can be used for a specific purpose. So, if you want to take a picture of a flower vendor for your Facebook business profile, you must communicate that to the flower vendor and get agreement. Authorization is a written form signed by a person, a person’s guardian (if the person is a minor) or a person’s legal representative acknowledging and agreeing to let the person’s image or recording be used for commercial, educational, promotional or legal purposes. Get written authorization. Have witnesses for consents and authorizations.
  • Inclusion of all other photos and images on a commercial business’ or nonprofit organization’s profile.
    If you took the photo (scenery, freeway traffic, etc.) or created the graphic, you likely own the copyright. If you work for someone who pays you for these products, they own the copyright. What do you think will happen if you use these images elsewhere? Also, make sure you are not recording an image of a copyrighted image and promoting your business with it.

Do most people care?

No. But it is the one person that does care that can cause great financial liability if you use an image without consent. All it takes is one to close down your profile, or even close down your business.

Is verbal approval enough? Tweet this 

Probably not in court, unless you have a witness that is not related to you or employed by the same organization. Without the written authorization, the burden of proof becomes easier for the person coming after you and your business. The best practice is to carry consent/authorization forms with you wherever you go. If the image is that important to use for your business or nonprofit it should be that important to get authorization to protect your business.

Some other thoughts on consent for images—

  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Have a policy in place addressing how already-used images will be owned by your organization. Withdrawn consent means that in the future you cannot use any images you have not used to that point.
  • You can only use the images for the purposes noted in the authorization form. So, include every possible use you can think of.
  • But what about memes and other graphics? Create your own for a business profile. Share all you want on a personal profile.
  • Giving credit to the owner of the copyrighted material is not always enough. This is called “attribution.” The law is on the side of the copyright owner. It gives the copyright owner the right to decide whether he wants his material to be used by anyone. Saying “But, I gave you a shout-out!” is not a legal defense.

The reality is that most people will violate these consent practices and the law as regards the use of images and recordings on social media. That does not make it legal. Nor does that give your attorney anything to work with if you are taken to court.

Be smart. Be legal. Set the example for others to learn the right way. Unfortunately, this does not become a real issue for many…until someone steals your company’s intellectual property from social media profiles or websites and gets a larger share of the market with it.

Know when to get consent for your images in social media! Tweet this

About the Author

Frankie RodriquezFrankie Rodriquez is the Co-Owner of Polka Dot Impressions and the Lead Pastor at Living Stones Anglican Church in Sugar Land, Texas.View all posts by Frankie Rodriquez →