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I got written permission to photograph an public event (it had tickets but the event was open to the general population). The responsible persons for the event knew I was going to submit the photos to microstock websites. Recently a visitor of that event discovered her photo on shutterstock. Asked for the photos to be removed and asked for money. I said to her I got written permission to photograph and sell the images as editorial to microstock websites.

What is the best answer to give when something like this happens? Do I have to remove the photos if she wants? If the organizers of the event give in to her requests and then ask me to remove the photos, what can I do? Do I have to give her any money of the sales?

Note: one reason for removing the photo could be that it causes ridicule to her, like: "I think I'm fat and ugly on the photo" - Is this considered a valid reason? Portuguese law says that I'm not obliged to remove the photos, unless it caused her honour and reputation to be hurt. The event was about cosplay and comics, she was dressed as a character.

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    While we do take general questions dealing with the law as it relates to photography, since you have a specific situation, you are best off talking to a lawyer at this point, rather than getting advice from random internet strangers. Even with the best intentions, we could easily make things worse. – mattdm Nov 27 '17 at 15:32
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    I believe there is a difference between being "in public" and being at an event that is "open to the public". Were the tickets sold subject to some terms and conditions? Did those T&Cs mention that attendees could have their photo taken? – osullic Nov 27 '17 at 15:52
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    @Robin based on what you say, that may mean that the photographer has no legal standing to be selling the photos either – laurencemadill Nov 27 '17 at 16:51
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    Yes, the organizers have that written in their T&Cs. It is not shown on a warning sign for example at the event. But general people must expect that their photo is going to be taken by professional photographers at these kind of events. And yes i'm selling the photos as editorial on shutterstock and the organizers knew that. – membio Nov 27 '17 at 16:57
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    My first comment seems to have dissappeared. @laurencemadill, no, it doesn't mean that. At least in most of Canada and the US, the photographer has the right to sell their photos for non-commercial purposes. This is why you can sell images from street photography in galleries and the like. Quebec is at least one exception to this (in North America). Not trying to claim everything is so clear cut, but this is the general rule AFAIK. – Robin Nov 28 '17 at 19:07
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There are two related but distinct issues here:

  • The question of whether you have acted in a manner that is within your legal rights.
  • The ramifications of public opinion regarding your photography business within the cosplay community in your country.

Legal Considerations

I'm not a lawyer and you should not take this as specific legal advice. For specific legal advice you should always consult a legal professional familiar with the specific laws and case studies in your legal jurisdiction.

In general, though, countries who are signatories to the Bern Convention allow photographers to take photos in public places and use them editorially. This includes editorial usage for which the photographer is compensated. Commercial usage, which requires a release from identifiable persons depicted in an image, is defined by the way an image is used to promote a service or product, not by whether or not the photographer was compensated by someone for taking the photo and selling a copy to them.

Most cosplay events are very specific in their terms and conditions that are implicitly agreed to when one purchases a ticket and attends such an event. If the organizers of the event included the requirement that all attendees grant permission to have their photos taken in the terms and conditions of the ticket sales and the organizers gave you permission to take photos and sell them as editorial or creative content then you're not legally required to remove the images or compensate the subjects depicted in them.

Unlike a lot of ticketed events open to the public in which the attendees are not really aware of many of the terms & conditions included, it has been my observation that most of the attendees of cosplay events, at least here in the U.S., are very aware of them. At some events there are almost as many photographers attending as there are costumed cosplayers. At times the cosplayers are fairly competitive with regards to getting their favorite photographers to shoot them.

Business Considerations

From a comment made by the OP to another answer to the question:

The problem is the snowball effect it created. She made a post on facebook. Now all of her friends, and friends from friends and family that attended the event are asking to remove the photos. They're even finding other events that i shoot, like the Carnival and want those photos removed as well.

Your initial response should probably have been to make an offer along the lines of, "I'll delete images of you if you will agree to remove your social media posts and stop casting my business in a negative light."

Now that the Pandora's box of viral social media has been opened, there's very little damage control that you can do. Whether you are legally right or wrong does not matter. If a large part of the cosplay community in your area has turned against you based on the influence of this person, you're going to have to deal with this for a long time.

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There is probably a lawyer in your jurisdiction that can tell you exactly what the laws says and what it is you have to do. It will probably cost you money to get legal advice but you can do it if you like.

There is an easy human thing to do though and that is simply to delete the photo. Yes, it is your photo but it is of someone else and if that person does not want to be in one of your photos, particularly not to have a photo of her on sale, just remove it. This is the respectful thing to do.

Sure, you can argue about the terms of event attendees and that all have consented by being there. Most people at an event do not even know or have seen the terms and conditions. So do you really want to be that person that forces someone to accept something they dislike because you can? On the other hand, I would not offer money to avoid falling victim people asking for it just because.

  • and that is precisely what i'm doing. I asked a lawyer friend. For respect i'm going to ask to shutterstock to remove the image. The problem is the snowball effect it created. She made a post on facebook. Now all of her friends, and friends from friends and family that attended the event are asking to remove the photos. They're even finding other events that i shoot, like the Carnival and want those photos removed as well. – membio Nov 27 '17 at 17:10
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    @membio with respect, if you spoke to a lawyer (friend), why are you asking here? We are not lawyers. – osullic Nov 27 '17 at 19:07
  • i wanted to know if similar cases happened here and what was the outcome, or other relevant information you can give me. – membio Nov 28 '17 at 8:30

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