Have you ever discovered your child's image being used in an online social forum without your consent?
Recently, we discovered that a photo of P was being used on a blog by estranged relatives to promote a book they have written and self-published under assumed names. The purpose of the blog is to direct people to buy their book.
When I found out that P's photo was in one of their blog posts I was very upset. On many levels this affected me. Mainly, because we have zero communication with this couple and now that they felt it was perfectly fine to use a photo of our child to promote their book I was going to have to contact them to take it down.
I waited a few days and did a lot of research about it. My main question: Can they use a photo they took of my child to promote their book without our consent?
I queried a professional photographer and a professional blogger. The consensus was this:
They took the photo and do technically have copyrights to it (they are not professional photographers) however, since they are using the photo in a commercial way (promoting their book) and the photo contains a minor then parental consent is required.
I went online and did a lot of googling on this topic. Yes, in a commercial capacity parental consent is necessary. I also found there is a Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act that helps parents safeguard their child's online privacy.
Just because an image is out there on the internet does not give people the right to upload it and use it for personal or business purposes. Just because someone took a snapshot of my child does not automatically grant them permission to use the image to promote their product or business. Doing so is morally and ethically wrong.
Watermarks on photos are important. It is illegal to crop/photoshop images taken from the internet and use them as your own. You cannot take a photo from a social networking site (i.e. Facebook) and use it to promote your business or product. There are public domain websites for photos/music/movies/books that are available for public use. There are stock photo sites for photos too. Sources must be sited for quotes and/or where you got the information, this is English 101 (please note that Wikipedia is written by anyone so, best not to use it as a source). Most importantly GET PERMISSION.
Consent is required to use photos of minors. This applies to websites/blogs that include your daycare, churches, schools, businesses, summer camps, civic groups, etc.... Do not be afraid to contact someone if you see your child's image being used to promote something. Especially if you do not agree with what is being promoted. Do not be afraid to "report" postings, pins, or tweets directly to the social network help desk or the web/blog hosting site. Your child's safety & privacy are more important.
I am discussing this situation as it applies in a business/commercial way. If someone is posting photos of your child on Facebook or on a personal blog and you do not wish them to do so then contact them and ask them to remove them. It is hard to keep up with the changes on Facebook but I do keep my settings set at private. I try not to post face shots of my children on my blog and if I do then I watermark over their face.
The use of internet as it relates to children's safety and privacy is still relatively a grey area. The more it is discussed, reported, and alerted to the proper chain of command then new stricter and more enforceable laws can be made.