I shot some photos of a store's interior for a blog that was highlighting that particular store. Is it legal for me to sell prints of the interior of that store? The photo just includes chocolate in a display case. In this case I am referring to a store in New York state (USA).

  • I'm not sure if its illegal - but most big stores won't allow it if they catch you.
    – rfusca
    May 17 '11 at 18:44
  • 1
    This depends entirely on what country you are talking about. Please state your country of residence as laws regarding this will differ from nation to nation.
    – Roland
    May 17 '11 at 19:04
  • See also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10601/…
    – mattdm
    May 17 '11 at 19:35

IANAL, and this advice is U.S.-centric 'cause that's where I live and work... but this is how my lawyer explained it to me for my own photography business... If the picture was taken on private property and the store is identifiable, you do need to get a location release in order to be able to sell it. If, however, the store is not identifiable, you can go ahead and use it as you see fit with no need to acquire additional releases.

Of course this correctly brings up the question of 'identifiable to whom?' Generally the test is that if the image is inflammatory or libelous towards the business owner and is not being used in an editorial capacity then the test is 'is the image identifiable to the owner of the business.' If it is not an inflammatory or libelous photograph then the legal test is less strict- 'is the business identifiable to the general public.'

Now I will say again, IANAL, this is U.S.-centric advice, and is general advice... The laws and policies in your specific jurisdiction may vary from these general guidelines, so do your homework and/or hire a lawyer if need-be.

  • Identifiable for the general public or to who might sue you? If its a unique display inside the store - does that make it identifiable?
    – rfusca
    May 17 '11 at 18:51
  • +1 for all the caveats. You make it clear that it's a tricky question to answer. May 17 '11 at 20:43
  • Note that despite all of the hubub we see about propery / location releases, there has never actually been a court case that determined one was needed: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/10601/…
    – ahockley
    May 17 '11 at 21:21

Tough question. If you show the owner and or current manager the respect of asking, more times than not I would imagine that they would be ok with it. You might as well have them sign some kind of release if they are agreeable just to be on the safe side. The reality of it is that most places would love the extra PR!

Obviously if a business is media oriented and they depend on that for their source of income, it would be a different situation.

  • 1
    I've had store managers chase me down and tell me "No, delete the picture" before. It's about protecting their intellectual property from competition.
    – rfusca
    May 17 '11 at 19:04
  • 1
    I think this is exactly why the issue should be handled up front. If there reason isn't a valid reason for not wanting you to take pictures, then it's their problem not yours, there are plenty of places out there that would love the attention of a photographer being in their business. I know because I have experienced only positive reactions when I have been in this situation and handled it upfront.
    – Paul Masek
    May 17 '11 at 19:17
  • 5
    @rfusca: Legally speaking- here in the US anyway- a store employee can ask you to stop taking pictures and leave the premises, but they have no legal grounds to 'confiscate your equipment' or force you to delete any photographs that you've taken. That's more of a 'know your rights' thing though... Someone who doesn't know that an employee can't take your camera away might willingly hand it over when confronted. May 17 '11 at 19:18
  • 1
    Sorry, I was really agreeing that you should ask up front - just not that everybody will say yes.
    – rfusca
    May 17 '11 at 19:19
  • Ok I see, my fault for misunderstanding.
    – Paul Masek
    May 17 '11 at 19:22

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.