I had some piercing work done at a private residence by someone who has quite a few followers. I asked them to take some pictures on my phone but they told me not to worry and that they had a camera. I am the only one in the pictures. They sent me the pictures watermarked with the piercers name and gave me permission to post/use them on social media.

Stuff has gone down since (not pretty). They are claiming copyright of the pictures and had them reported and taken down.

Do I have any rights? Am I allowed to legally post them on social media? I am in Western Australia and can't afford a lawyer. I feel bullied. Appreciate any help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have written confirmation of the permission to post them on social media? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 14:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This may be better for law.stackexchange.com, since there are issues much beyond photography here. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are they just requiring you to not publish the pictures, or have they claimed any kind of monetary compensation for you illegaly using their pictures? \$\endgroup\$
    – jarnbjo
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BiancaGomas What was your age at the time the photos were taken? What is the legally recognized age of majority in the place in which the photos were taken? Does that locale have any restrictions with regard to photographing minors? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ These types of issue rely heavily on the specifics of what you have in writing (email or chat logs would count but please redact names) the remedies being sought from you. You should at least update the question to show the message you were sent when you were supplied the image, as well as if the photographer has used your likeness to promote their products & services. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2017 at 19:21

4 Answers 4


The following is for entertainment purposes only. If you have any serious legal concerns, contact a lawyer.

  • It is difficult to do anything about this type of situation after the fact. Since "stuff has gone down", some time has likely passed. As long as the other person is also not using the images, it may not be worth the effort to restore publication of the images.

  • If any of the communications in which the images and permission were granted is in written form, you may be able to use a record of the permission to restore the previously published images.  Write a letter to the image host stating that you have permission. Include the date permission was obtained, how and from whom it was obtained, and a quote with the exact wording.

  • In the future, it is best to avoid the problem by bringing a friend who can take pictures for you on your own camera. Refuse to allow other people to take pictures of you. Unfortunately, it is very common to abuse copyright to extract money out of people who cannot afford the costs of the legal proceedings.

  • Consider creating a work for hire agreement that you have photographers sign. This will ensure you retain rights to works you commission and prevent them from misusing your images.

  • When having body work done, make sure sanitary practices are being observed. Make sure all necessary business permits are visible and up to date. For health and safety concerns, avoid having such work done at private residences.

  • Another issue to consider is the copyright of the bodywork itself. Although it is on your body, you may not hold any copyrights. Any photograph of you in which the bodywork is visible may be subject to infringement claims, as a derivative work. Before having any further body work done, you should consider consulting a lawyer to draw up a contract in which you would be assigned all copyrights to the work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 for describing as "bullying" the exercise of perfectly valid copyright. \$\endgroup\$
    – user29608
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @fkraiem Have removed the word "bully" from my answer. However, something being legal does not mean it is moral. Copyright is a tool that may be used constructively or destructively. In this case, if facts stated by OP are accurate, that there was an agreement, even if only verbal, copyright is being used to bully. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fkraiem Giving verbal permission to use images and then later denying such permission was verbally given is fraud, even if it can't be proven. Making a verbal agreement and then denying such in legal proceedings is perjury, even if it can't be proven. That is certainly within the context of "abuse of copyright". \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for once having had the balls to call antisocial use of perfectly valid copyright "bullying". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 19:09

Well, it boils down to

They sent me the pictures watermarked with the piercers name and gave me permission to post/use them on social media.

If you can prove the permission (and if you got sent the permission along with the pictures they'd have quite a bit of perjury to do in court to deny it) you have the permission. You don't have the copyright, and you would not have the copyright either if the photographs would have been taken with your smartphone camera by anybody but yourself.

Independently there may be copyright for the body art: that would belong to the artist, not you. You can block their use of the photographs if your personality rights are affected. For many body art photographs this might actually not be the case. Stuff like full-body tattoos however can hardly be depicted without significantly showing an individual.

"Am I allowed legally" and "I can't afford a lawyer" don't form a good pair. Whether or not you are in your legal rights is not relevant if you are not in a position to sue. This then rather boils down to "how much of a pain can they become to me" vs "how much of a pain can I become to them".

Now of course, this being body art, I don't quite see why you don't take pictures of your own. Assuming you paid for it, you are at least in legal possession of a copy of it. I don't know the usual ramifications (or default terms of trade) for permanent body art but I should be surprised if you stopped being able to show pictures you made yourself of yourself on social media.

But sometimes things do surprise me. For any authoritive opinion about the laws of your country, you need to ask a lawyer. And for a binding statement, a court.


I'm not a lawyer anywhere and this advice is based on what my general understanding of law in countries that have a system similar to English-law.

The question which I'd ask is why does it matter ?.

Unless they're suing you for damages (and you don't say this is so), it should not be an issue for you that they've attempted to block the images.

Normally without explicit permission (verbal and witnessed or an email or phone text you have or written and properly signed and dated on paper), you have no automatic right to the images to publish.

You are, however, the subject of the images and typically you'd be entitled to possess and display the images in a not-for-profit way. However, and I suspect it's important you understand this, if you are publishing the images in a way that could damage or libel the other person's reputation, then you'd be strongly advised not to do that. You can incur considerable costs legally just defending such activity and you'd need a very strong reason to do so.

Also note that publishing photos with the intent of damaging someone's reputation may compromise your ability to sue them later on if they did cause damage to you and the photos show it. Court's generally don't like tit-for-tat behavior.

So as a general rule, don't publish photos you don't have a clear right to. And even if you have a clear right note that doing so with the intent to damage someone's reputation is putting yourself in a difficult legal position.

Reading between the lines, my advice to you would be "let it go" and keep a copy of the images privately in case you need them later for legal reasons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "You are, however, the subject of the images and typically you'd be entitled to possess and display the images in a not-for-profit way." This is absolutely not the case in English law. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean this in the context of images taken casually (as they were here) or where a photographer takes a photo with a commercial intent or under an agreement like TFP ? I think if you're the subject of a casually taken image you're entitled to have it and use it non-commercially. And this is different again from photos of celebrities and people in the public eye. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 25, 2017 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @StephenG Where is that section of the law that distinguishes between 'casually taken images' and any other types of images? The photographer owns the image and has the say in who can use it and how it may be used unless ownership was transferred by a legally binding agreement (work for hire contract, transfer of ownership documentation, etc.). Issues about celebrities and other public figures are about how the copyright owner can and can not use the images, not about how others may use the images. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 18:27

As the subject of the images in question, you hold the publication rights by anyone. However, since the photos are not your own, the person who owns them in effect owns the copyright. They can't use them without your written consent, but neither can you without their consent.

It is not uncommon for a photographer to allow the subject in photos personal use of those photos in exchange for publication consent. However, as it appears the relationship has been damaged between client and photographer, common courtesies appear to have been discounted.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "As the subject of the images in question, you hold the publication rights by anyone." Can you reference this claim from anywhere? I am pretty sure that is wrong. For instance: "Broadly, the exclusive rights of a copyright owner are the right to reproduce (or copy), publish and communicate one’s work to the public..." (Arts Law Centre of Australia FAQ) \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 11:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is not correct. If what you said was true there would be no paparazzi. While many photographers obtain model releases, that is for 99% risk mitigation rather than an actual requirement. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 4:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ All I know is if I don't have a signed release, I can't publish the photo. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Public figures have significantly less right to privacy than normal people, precisely because they are public figures. And even then, commercial exploitation of their likeness without permission can be problematic (see Keller, et al v. Electronic Arts, Inc.). \$\endgroup\$
    – dgatwood
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 17:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GordonCully Actually, you can publish such a photo. There may or may not be legal consequences. Even if you are legally on solid ground and prevail in any resulting litigation, the expense of defending yourself can be rather significant. It is the avoidance of risking those consequences (and legal expenses) that lead most major third party publishers to require a signed model release, not the law. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 20:58

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