In recent days, the hashtag #IAmAnthony has taken off, with thousands of people coming out to support teen photographer Anthony Mazur, who was forced by his school in the US to take down his Flickr page, which contained images he had taken at school sport events. As someone who also shoots extensively for my school, his case stood out to me, but not for the right reasons. Unlike many online, I don’t support Anthony, and am siding with his school.
Anthony was part of the yearbook class at his high school, and as part of this would often go out of his way to shoot sporting events, mostly after school. He says that a turning point was when he attended a seminar and learnt that he owned the images he took, despite them being taken on school equipment. Following this, he quickly began posting them online, and even sold some of them.
“whoever took the picture owns it, and can do what they want with it.”
He claims that the trouble started when he was called into the principal’s office and was told he needed to immediately remove the images since he did not own them. He says he was then threatened with an in-school suspension if he did not comply. The principal explained to Anthony that the main issue was privacy, however he did not accept this argument, instead saying that “whoever took the picture owns it, and can do what they want with it.” He was then given an Administrative Directive which stated he had “posted images with the intention to profit,” something which he claims is perfectly legal.
While the words used by the principal here are not entirely accurate, he is right. Anthony had no right to post the photos, and certainly did not have the right to sell them, just because he is the one who took them. Unfortunately, the law is not as simple as “whoever took the picture can do what they want with it.” What he was using the images for does not fall under ‘fair use,’ which does not necessarily require permission of the subject or subjects. Examples of fair use include commentary, parody, criticism, news reporting, research or education. Since Anthony was posting the images online and making a profit, he most definitely needed a model release, something which he has not mentioned at any point while spreading the word about his case. The school was most definitely in the right to ask him to remove the photos, as they have duty of care over their students.
"Anthony had no right to post the photos, and certainly did not have the right to sell them, just because he is the one who took them."
One of his major arguments is that photographers shooting for newspapers and other news outlets regularly attend games and have not been punished for doing the same thing as him. The difference is though, that they are not doing the same thing as him. He is shooting to post online and sell, both of which need permission of the person in the photo. The news photographers are covered by fair use, as the photos are being taken as part of editorial coverage of the event.
I regularly take photos for my school, but I never post any of them online. The first reason is from a business standpoint: you never release images you took for someone else before they have released them or before you have been given permission to release them. But the second reason is that I am aware of the legal complications around photography. Increasingly, photography is becoming less about the photos and more about the administration, which includes more legislation and rules to comply with than ever. An understanding of how to deal with clients and the laws around photography is a crucial skill to have for anyone wishing to pursue a career as a photographer.
As much as I feel sorry for Anthony and the heavy handed approach the school has taken, he is in the wrong and sometimes it’s better to be taught a lesson sooner rather than later.