Unsolicited candid photos used on website

Would you be mad at a situation like this?

My wife’s company usually celebrates Halloween and employees (1000+) bring their costumed kids in and they treak or treat from cubicle to cubicle on the various floors.
This was over a month ago.
In the meantime one of my wife’s co-worker gals was looking to get some photos done of her daughter for Christmas. She heard about another worker in the building (some guy who neither of them knew personally) who did professional photography on the side. She found the guys website to check out his work and found among his sample work photos of her daughter and our son w/his mom. These were candid shots that my wife didn’t even realize were being taken at the time (zoomed in from across the office).
My wife and her co-worker friend are made because 1) The guy didn’t tell them he was taking candid shots of them, 2) The guy didn’t ask to put them on his business website, and 3) The guy didn’t even tell them they were going to be on his website.
Should my wife and her friend be pissed about this? Should they do anything beyond asking him to take them off his website?

There is a bit of a problem there because they are taken at a place where you expect a bit of privacy from the outside world. If they were taken in a public place, such as in the street or in a park, then you can’t expect such privacy; and if the photographer had been open about taking photographs, you might have expressed your privacy concerns then. But secret photography in a private building is somewhat problematic.

Ask him to remove them from the website and see what he says. IANAL, but this was not a public place and he should not have been taking photos of your wife without her knowledge or her permission, nor should he have posted the pictures without her knowledge or permission.

I’d say being mad is a perfectly reasonable response to the situation. Asking the photographer to remove the shots is also perfectly reasonable.

This in no way suggests that their legal rights are somehow being infringed. I am not enough of a lawyer to have an opinion on this. I am enough of a poor person to say I would not spend a dime on a lawyer to force the photos off-line if the photographer refuses.

However, a chat with someone in HR seems appropriate. Given the photographer and the subjects work at the same place, the company might be able to influence what the subjects cannot.

He should have obtained releases from them if they are recognizable in the photos.

Ask him to remove them and he probably will. If not, and you don’t want to involve a lawyer, you can always blog repeatedly and at length, in a calm factual way, about his unprofessional behavior and how he’s using unauthorized photos of non-public figures for profit and would not remove them when politely requested to do so. I’d suggest starting with The Consumerist, www.consumerist.com , and see if that doesn’t make him change his mind about removing them.

Followup:

Well, they did ask him today, via company e-mail, to kindly remove them, which he did without a fuss.
They’re still upset about it but I told them they should just drop it and forget about it at his point.

The complicated part is the fact that you’re inside a building that the photographer doesn’t own.

If he got permission from the building owner to shoot there, then he would be fine.
But since he’s been nice enough to take them down, I don’t think you should take it an further.

This is a potentially murky issue because the photo was taken on private property. However, if the photographer had permission from the property owner, then he had every right to take and post the photos.

Contrary to what many people might think, the US public has very limited right to privacy in public places. Anybody can be photographed without their knowledge or consent except when they have gone to specific areas where they can expect privacy such as bathrooms, change rooms or inside their own houses.

This, IMHO, is a good thing. I’d rather have a million Little Brothers running around taking and posting cell phone snaps of each other than have one Big Brother claim a monopoly on the public use of cameras.

The situation is even murkier because photographers generally have the right to take pictures of people in public places and use them for personal or editorial uses. However * commercial * usage is a different kettle of fish and one could easily argue that using the picture on a professional website is a commercial usage.

Why would that be.

If I’m taking a picture in public and something news worthy is happening, I can certainly sell that image to a publication, without any consent of the people in the image.

Besides, on his website, he (doesn’t appear from the description) is not selling the image. Only using it to promote his photography. So it isn’t a commercial use. It is a promotional use.