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Need permission to record Public Events?

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Bryce Douglass
Need permission to record Public Events?
on May 25, 2018 at 2:23:17 am


As a filmmaker or photographer do I need permission from others to film or photograph a minor and or adult that's in a public setting such as 4th of July parade or some public production put on by an after school program? In some cases my films which I have a photographer with me will be using the final project for promotional purposes which I won't make any money back on. Other Projects I will be selling DVD's to other people.

I will be hired by a school later this year to film a parade the school puts on in honor of a school student. The school will be overseeing my project but the parade is after school hours. Most parents will just drop their kids off and let them join the parade.

Do all the parents need to sign a release? The school has like over 500 students. grades 1-6 will be in the parade.

NOTE: School has already paid for my time in meetings about the project and pre production discussion. I'm filming later this year.

I also recently was hired by staff at a hotel to film a workshop they were sponsoring. One person got mad at me for filming them. I was told by the staff to not worry about it as I was being hired to film the event. Could I get into any legal issues by filming people who get mad?

I've seen tons of people take photos etc of people in public all the time. I know one guy who does both film and photography and he sells his images on his website. He told me he never gets permission because it's a public event and if they are in public they should expect to be part of any media and if they get mad they shouldn't have been there.

What is anyone else's opinion about this?




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Mark Suszko
Re: Need permission to record Public Events?
on May 25, 2018 at 2:03:07 pm

Parade on a public street? Fair game, especially if you're not spending an inordinate amount of time dwelling on one person in close-up.

I have to shoot parades often in my job. One time, a mom stopped me to say her kid was a state ward and in a custody battle situation, she asked that I not photograph the child, and I made a judgement call to record over the shot, to be nice. But generally you can shoot anything at a public parade.

As for the school aspect, most schools now have some kind of form the parent sign at the beginning of the year that's a blanket permission to be photographed in school-sanctioned activities like sports games, yearbook, assemblies, graduations, student plays, etc., and there is usually an "opt-out" slip the parents have to send in if they don't want their kid involved in something, and then the kid goes to study hall or something like that instead. If you have documentation from the school giving you permission on school grounds, I think you're safe.

The hotel thing, your permission comes from the people holding the event; they have to tell the attendees they are consenting to be photographed. Not the hotel, but the seminar organizer. It's usually a notice printed on their ticket or their application to be at the event. A good thing to have though for occasional semi-public cases, as extra insurance, is a sign on a portable stand you can post, saying that if you enter this specific area you are consenting to be photographed, and that if you do not wish to be photographed, do not stay here.

In cases where one or two people object to being photographed, I've negotiated with them to define a corner of the room or a space immediately behind my tripod that I won't shoot, and if they stay there, I'll honor their wishes... but this is something I do out of courtesy, cooperation, and a desire to not be a jerk, more than out of any obligation.

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Bill Davis
Re: Need permission to record Public Events?
on Aug 2, 2018 at 7:50:48 pm

After decades in this business, I WISH there was a single rule that covered all this stuff - but it's just not that simple.

There are overlapping laws and rights involved. Privacy rights, Intellectual Property (IP) rights Tangible Property rights (I created this thing and you have no right to show it in your video with my permission), Design rights (that unreleased outfit is MY fashion work - you can't use it to promote your photography without my permission), Performance rights (You want to make money with a 1 man show of my poetry?), Music rights of various types including composition, performance and synchronization variations.

This stuff is argued over in courts all the time. Does a regular person attending a public event have a "reasonable expectation of privacy?" What if they're a celebrity? What if they're a minor?
It gets sticky.

Generally, as Mark notes, if you're at an "open to the public" event, on public property, and aren't overly focused on a single individual too much - the overall industry general pracice is that you're fine. The copyright to any creative work (the photo or video) is yours as the original creator. But, if there's obvious background music playing, art of architecture that's identifiable as someone elses IP, or if you follow a single person doing a unique performance around - then things get a LOT stickier.

The reason pros get releases whenever we can is that that release becomes an AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE should the party decide later to try to allege that their contribution to your IP work rises to the level of contributor including rights to profit from the work.

The law doesn't particularly like ambiguity. I shot you, but you signed my release, so I now unambiguously have the rights to use your image in my creative work - THAT is legally clear.

Hope that helps.

Creator of XinTwo -
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.

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