I encountered a situation this week that has not been brought up to me in my ten years of social media management for businesses. In all of my communications roles, sharing images from different events has been expected – especially when we are also a sponsor of the event. In this particular situation I was at a minor hockey game. It was atom level, with kids under 11 playing.
The reason I was there was specifically to take promotional photography that would serve as an ad for my employer’s minor hockey sponsorship and fundraising opportunities. The coach and parents were aware of this. During this rather informal photoshoot I snapped a picture with my phone of the rink board advertisement we have featured, as well as some of the players, and tweeted it with the following caption: “We’re proud to support future hockey superstars in communities across the #Prairies!”1
I thought nothing of this until it was brought up to me later that perhaps it was not appropriate to tweet an image of children without their parent’s explicit, written permission for it to be shared on social media. I understood where they were coming from but I couldn’t help but think of all the reasons why this situation was no different than tweeting an image from a dinner, or conference or trade show that have people in them that perhaps wouldn’t have agreed to be. These are all types of events we’ve featured images from in the past.
In today’s world, with a camera on every cell phone, the risk of being photographed in a public place is high and the right to take a photograph in a public place exists. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in a hockey arena open to the public. Anyone could have come in off the street and seen what was shown in the photo – kids playing hockey, nearly unrecognizable through their face masks.
I started thinking that perhaps it was our position as a business that would make this situation different but was shocked to discover that there isn’t really legislation that pertains specifically to the use of pictures taken in public. “Photography is mentioned in very few Canadian laws,”2 according to the website Ambient Light and where I live, in Alberta, there is no provincial legislation pertaining to the use of photography.
The only situations where this changes is when that reasonable expectation of privacy becomes criminal voyeurism (i.e. public washrooms are public, but you can’t take pictures in them.) There’s nothing that exists to say how businesses can use public photos to promote themselves; not that I could find anyway. I would not have used a public photo to sell a product, but promoting our community support could be seen by some as selling ourselves. Likewise, a professional photographer can sell images taken in public places without necessarily having signed waivers.
This has left me with a lot of questions but one stands above the rest – should there be an exception in this situation because of the age of those in the image, or is being in a public place and not identifiable in the photo, enough to satisfy that what a member of the public can see with their eyes is fair use?
1 Proven Seed. (2017, December 09). We’re proud to support future hockey superstars in communities across the #Prairies! pic.twitter.com/5M0HYxux1n. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from https://twitter.com/ProvenSeed/status/939630832892960769
2 Photography Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2017, from https://ambientlight.ca/laws/
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