What are the ramification of selling the pictures without the consent of people in the pictures?

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2011

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What are the ramification of selling the pictures without the consent of people in the pictures?

I’m an event photographer who focuses on taking pictures in night clubs. Now, I’m thinking about creating a website and selling the pictures there. The problem is, it impossible to ask everyone at the night club to sign a picture release.

Asked on August 25, 2011 California


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The theory is this is a semi-public venue. You may need to look into the laws in California by talking with a copyright attorney in California about whether there is case law on commercial use of pictures taken in night clubs. Laws are constantly changing on the matter and especially when facebook and other social media are involved. Oftentimes releases are built into the ticket purchased and seen as a waiver, because there may very well be the club owners themselves who wish to video or photograph certain nights (like think New Year's Eve) for use in future marketing. I would think the use would be fine but you want to protect yourself from the random person who simply did not wish to have anyone take his or her picture. Also, contact the U.S. Copyright office. If this going to be a business, consult with a business attorney about the steps you can take to be more proactive, like agreements with the club.

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