I know in practice it's best to just contact the photographer and ask for permission, regardless whether or not you have the legal rights. In order to avoid derailing the question as happened here, consider this a theoretical question, not a practical one: do I have the right to use a photograph taken of me?

If I create a painting on canvas and a photographer takes a picture of it, surely I have more rights to the picture than the photographer. If I paint a car in a unique way and a photographer takes a picture of it, I probably still have some rights to the picture. It's not a far stretch to compare photographing paintings and cars to photographing humans. Most people have made considerable artistic efforts into their presentation, hair, makeup, pose, etc.

We could even look at it in terms of contribution to the work. If the goal is to create a photograph of Janice from accounting, it's not possible without Janice. By comparison, it is possible to create a similar work even with a different photographer. Even Janice herself can produce a photograph of herself without assistance - a crappier photo, but still - no photographer in the world can produce a photograph of Janice without Janice.

I'm from Finland.

  • 1
    If this is a real question, you should talk to a lawyer. If this is a hypothetical question, photo.stackexchange.com is probably just not the best place for this kind of legal discussion (speculation?)
    – osullic
    Feb 6, 2019 at 9:32
  • commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Copyright_rules_by_territory/… My hot take: Whether a photograph is a "work of art" is not obvious to the law, but this is only really relevant for expiry calculations but may impact how a photo is publicly displayed. How a photo can be used may or may not require your consent. But the photo rights belong to the creator.
    – user31502
    Feb 6, 2019 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


You have personality rights to pictures taken of you but you have no copyright on your likeness as a person. Artwork with a recognizable level of artistic creation, like body paintings or poetry written/tattooed on your skin, may have copyrightable claims by the respective artist.

If you look at it "in terms of contribution to the work": If the goal is to create a photograph of Janice from accounting, it's not possible without a camera. Still the camera manufacturer does not get copyright in the end product.

Basically you are trying to argue like an intellectual property maximalist, essentially stating "any difference my existence makes to the world should be something I should have control over and be able to tax". That's not how copyright was designed. The respective rights misleadingly called "intellectual property" are generally considered copyright, patent right, trademark law. They are separate entities, carved out to grant special exceptions to quite specific kinds of changes wrought by the intellect and often benefitting society, for the purpose of encouraging progress in science and arts that otherwise would be hampered.

A photograph of Janice cannot be made without Janice, but Janice needs no additional incentive to exist or to do her hair, and she can negotiate whatever conditions she wants for her to pose for you. And the camera manufacturer does not need additional incentives in addition to the camera's price tag for producing their cameras. So there is no point in the state to assume a position where either Janice or the camera manufacturer get government-protected rights for their participation in some work.

Janice does get personality rights: you cannot publish her recognizable likeness without her agreement. This, again, is a separate government protected bubble of rights in order to make sure that something considered valuable is not taken without adequate compensation (in this case, it's centered about image in public and privacy, both assets that require little effort to mess with without rules).

  • 2
    Some of those statements (particularly regarding "personality rights") are questionable, likely very localised. Without knowing the asker's jurisdiction, I'd be inclined to be cautious with such statements. For example, where I live and shoot, photographs taken in a public place need no permission from the subject to be published (and that's probably important, for a free press). Feb 6, 2019 at 10:25
  • 1
    I may be nitpicking here, but the camera comparison is not really valid. A particular camera is not needed to produce the photograph. The camera is replaceable in similar sense as the photographer, whereas Janice is not replaceable. Feb 6, 2019 at 10:46
  • 1
    There are circumstances where you can publish a photo of Janice without her consent. Otherwise it would be impossible for news organizations or documentary filmmakers to show a public street scene with people in it. And although it varies from one country/jurisdiction to the next, almost all countries allow at least some forms of publication without consent for editorial content when it serves the greater public interest.
    – Michael C
    Feb 6, 2019 at 14:15
  • @MichaelC Of course, but the question isn't about the rights of the photographer, it's about the rights of the person being photographed. It's perfectly plausible that multiple people could have the right to publish a photo. Feb 6, 2019 at 14:25
  • 2
    @AtteJuvonen "Janice does get personality rights: you cannot publish her recognizable likeness without her agreement." That's not always true. Janice does not get to always say who can and can not publish an image they took of Janice. I doubt most wanted criminals have given permission for the authorities to distribute their likeness via the news media and on posters in post offices.
    – Michael C
    Feb 6, 2019 at 18:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.