We invite a guest attorney to our Facebook page once a week to address queries from our followers. This week’s topic is shooting in public places.

We invite a guest attorney to our Facebook page once a week to address queries from our followers. The best of the week? A question concerning shooting in public places and if you need permission from those who come into contact with your camera’s lens. Keep in mind that this is about shooting something for public viewing. Home movies aren’t very relevant.

Unless, of course, you intend to submit them to America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Is it necessary to get the consent of persons who may appear in the backdrop of my photographs if I’m filming a video in a public place?

In an ideal scenario, you’d have everyone who appears in your video to sign a release form, but that’s clearly not possible when any bystander may stroll into your shot (as if you were recording a documentary or a public event, for example).

The truth is, when individuals are in a public place, they have already given up part of their right to privacy — obtaining a release is only an additional precaution. In general, you don’t have to ask everyone in the audience to sign a release as long as the photographs aren’t insulting, libelous, or invading their privacy unnecessarily. Consider this: if photographing crowds were completely forbidden, the evening news would never be able to present street video. Nonetheless, everyone who is interviewed or has a major part (such as a featured extra) should sign a release form, such as a Release for Use of Likeness.

A crowd release notice is another option to get some extra security. This entails posting signs indicating that you’re shooting at all of your location’s entrances and exits, as well as explaining how people’s likenesses may be exploited. This is made simpler if the shooting setting is somewhat contained.

Remember that depending on the scale of your production and whether it is commercial or not, you may require a permission to shoot in certain public places.

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