Which license should I choose to publish a photography with a recognizable person in a public space on sites like 500px or Flickr?

I know I can not offer it as a stock photo at a marketplace without the model release but can I publish such photo as CC-BY-NC or even just CC-BY online? Or which licenses can I use for editorial purposes?

Is there a difference between a recognizable person as the main subject and a crowd of „recognizable“ people at the background?

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    \$\begingroup\$ In what country was the photo taken? Answers can vary wildly depending on the applicable laws in a specific jurisdiction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 1, 2016 at 6:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ What makes you think you can not offer it at a stock photo marketplace without a release? You can't offer it for commercial usage, but you certainly may offer such an image for editorial usage in the U.S. and many other countries. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 1, 2016 at 6:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feel free to describe how it works in states you know or what is common. I photograph around the world, so my photos are from various states from Europe to US or Japan etc. The last shots were from Nepal. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2016 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can describe the options and possible licences to use for commercial vs editorial usage as well. I am not even sure how to indicate that I allow the usage for editorial usage but not the commercial. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2016 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @myneur You'd indicate allowed usage when you submit it to a stock photo house. They'll ask clients how the image will be used before licensing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Feb 1, 2016 at 21:17

1 Answer 1


You're confusing copyright licencing with model releases, they are separate and not actually related.

Licencing and copyright govern who is permitted to have the images and if/where/when they can reproduce a work.

A model release indemnifies a licensee should they show the subject(s) endorsing a viewpoint that the subject does not hold or shows them in a negative light. Without this indemnity they risk Libelling the subject who would be able to seek redress and damages through legal channels with a reasonable chance of success.

For more information see:- What can and cannot be legally done with editorial photos?

If your image has been taken on the street then some additional caveats may apply...

Most regions operate under the rule of an "expectation of privacy" and usually if you can see someone from a public place then you're free to photograph them, but that does not apply everywhere. Obviously you definitely should not distribute it if you shouldn't have taken it as you're publishing evidence of your crime.

Also if any person is identifiable in the image, prominent or otherwise, then Data Protection rules may come into play since while personal data is frequently considered "information necessary to identify and locate a person", this depends on jurisdiction. Some would consider a clear photo of a person's face sufficient.

Even though you may be legally permitted to post/sell/share images you've taken it does not mean that it is ethical to do so (for example if the subject has specifically asked you not to)... and even if you are in the right the cost of defending yourself in a civil action may be significant even if you win. Sharing them on flickr/500px is not usually an issue but as with any legal question, if you're unsure then you should retain the services of a local expert.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Still depends on the country. In some countries you're not legally allowed to take another person's photo, even in a public place, without first obtaining their permission. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 2, 2016 at 2:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does that mean I can upload a photo with people to sites like Flicker/500px under any license I want and I don't risk anything unless I submit such photo to the „marketplace“, which can be done just with the model release, which can be added to a photo with whatever license I uploaded it with? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2, 2016 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark - I don't disagree, but that's not really related to the OP's confusion between Copyright and a Release. I'll add something though just to clarify. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 3, 2016 at 13:46

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