Rights concerning photos taken in public

| 09/06/2016

Recently on a social media forum, I noted that a certain mobile vehicle detailing company on island posted a picture of one of their competitors (a carwash man on the road) who was washing a vehicle.  The picture of the individual was taken without the subject’s consent and posted on social media. Is this legal?  Can someone post your picture on social media without your consent, especially if using this to advertise their services?

Auntie’s answer: There are actually two issues at play here. First of all, as a lawyer explained to me, there is no ownership of photos taken of someone in public who is not the subject of copyright. Basically, this means that if you are out and about and someone takes a photo of you, you have no legal right to tell them they can’t.

A good example of this is if a news organisation like Cayman News Service takes a photo for a story of a car crash or a crime scene or defendant at a court appearance, it is perfectly legitimate to post the picture online. The police cannot stop you taking photos unless it is legitimately affecting an investigation as opposed to simply annoying the prickly officer. (See related Ask Auntie column Can the public videotape police officers?)

So, in answer to your question addressing the right of the individual washing the car getting his photo taken, that is fair game.

However, you also bring up the point of this photo getting posted online to advertise a rival car-washing service and that is an entirely different thing. The lawyer said that “the individual or company may have a potential claim if the photo is used to promote a competitor’s business”. If that is the case, he recommends you consult a copyright or intellectual property lawyer.

I know that it seems that many people in Cayman feel that copyright and intellectual property do not apply to them, but they may well do.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know who the lawyer was, but they seemed to miss out that is a right of privacy guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and that can be used to stop photographs being used without the permission of the person in question if they were taken improperly or used for improper purposes.

  2. Kim says:

    Top copyright lawyer on-island: Sophie Davies of HSM IP. Buckingham Square, 720 West Bay Road,

    • Anonymous says:

      Can you be a top copyright lawyer in a place that has real copyright work? Sounds a bit like being the best alpine ski instructor.