What is a Photo Disclaimer?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 28 January 2020
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A photo disclaimer is a document or statement intended to indicate the rights and terms of use for photographs either in regard to those whose image appears in the photo or by those who own the photo. This type of disclaimer can vary in meaning and often is quite situational in nature, though there are certain common types of disclaimers for photographs. One of the most common is for websites that include photographs and usually serve to indicate the intended purpose of such photographs or how others can legally use them. A photo disclaimer may also serve to separate the subjects of a photo from those who own the photograph.

Sometimes also called a photograph disclaimer, a photo disclaimer will typically be part of a website or other public usage of a photograph. One of the most common types of photo disclaimer is one that indicates how a photograph can be displayed and who maintains the rights to that image. For example, a website that has a high number of original images on it may include a disclaimer that indicates that all of the pictures are owned by the owner of that website and cannot be used without permission.


Similarly, a website using pictures that were primarily taken in public places may include a photo disclaimer indicating that the pictures are for general information and not meant to be invasive. While this type of disclaimer may not legally be required, it can often be viewed as a sound precaution to ensure that those in the picture are not offended by their inclusion on the site. This is especially important for situations in which photographs taken at an amusement park or similar location are used for advertising for that company.

A photo disclaimer may also be used to indicate that pictures used are not meant to indicate any particular attitude or opinion on the part of those whose images are being used. For example, if a tobacco company used photographs of people smoking as part of its website, it may include a disclaimer indicating that those depictions are not meant to indicate an endorsement by the subjects of the picture. This type of photo disclaimer can be used to ensure that the use of images of people will not later be used to indicate any sort of defamation.

Such a disclaimer may also be useful in a reversal of the above example. If photographs of employees of a company may be potentially offensive to others, then a photo disclaimer could be used to indicate that the actions of the employees do not represent the attitudes of the company. This can serve to distance a company or organization from possible damage caused by the actions of those who work for the company.


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Post 2

I remember an incident on the David Letterman show where a heavy-set woman was taped eating an ice cream cone during a major tennis tournament. Letterman used that footage repeatedly on his show, adding his own comments about the woman's eating habits. The woman sued the network, because the cameraman failed to obtain a photo disclaimer. She did not give permission to use her image on television, especially in a degrading manner. These things matter, which is why news photographers often film subjects on the street from the shoulders down.

Post 1

My wife works for a newspaper, and the photographers routinely carry release forms for subjects to sign. They're essentially photo disclaimers, stating the person(s) in the photograph agrees to allow the newspaper to publish the photo in an upcoming issue. If the photo is of a large group, or if none of the faces are easily identifiable, then the photographer isn't obligated to get a disclaimer.

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