Legal and Ethical Issues - Gregg Eligh Presentation. Nov. 13 2013

            The SaltSpring Photography Club

Educational Event

November 13, 2013


Presenter:  Gregg Eligh

Topic:   Legal and Ethical Issues of Photography…


Bio:  Gregg Eligh is a working commercial photographer based in Victoria, after 
more than 30 years working in Vancouver and Toronto.
 His range of clients includes magazine editorial, corporate publications and 
websites, major advertising agencies and accounts, and book publishing.


While in Toronto Gregg was on the National Executive of the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) for 7 years, including a 
term as national President.
 CAPIC was formed as a lobby group to represent the professional photography 
community to establish copyright laws and effective business practices in 
the photography profession.


Also, while in Toronto, he designed & taught the photography component of 
the Graphic Design Program at George Brown College. This included large 
components of business direction, including contracts, copyright, model 
releases, and image usage.


Currently in Victoria, Gregg teaches the Advertising elective of the 
Professional Photography Course at the Western Academy of Photography. 
Again, contracts, invoicing, rights & usage are prominent components of 
this course.
 Commercial photography, teaching and seminars, and personal gallery 
exhibitions are his current focus.
And Gregg assures us he is still have FUN… 


Alternate Sponsor:  Gregg shared his love of…  Painter’s Photography Retreat Weekend – first weekend of May --- this will be the 9th year --- it is a weekend for photographers to mix, play, learn, eat and learn some more, from instructors and from each other --- they also have a tremendous amount of fun… He encourages our membership to think about attending --- guarantees you will love it and it will change your photography for life… If you would like to hear more about it contact Gregg at

Presentation:  Gregg’s talk was very much about the balance between the rights of the subject and the rights of the photographer.  He repeatedly said he is not a lawyer, but is familiar with the area from the viewpoint of a professional working in the field… He spent very little time on the legal specifics.   It is very clear that while there are very specific legal rules:  the interpretation seems somewhat murky, and a multitude of shades of gray…


There are very specific laws with regards to:

  • publishing recognizable images for commercial purposes,
  • invasion of individual’s privacy,
  • demeaning to an individual 


  • the image is deemed to be Newsworthy or in the Public Interest… this is often an argument used by professional photographers for their own protection and is truly ambiguous


Gregg reiterated repeatedly that he is not a lawyer or legal authourity and he is personally guided by the principles of: 

Common Sense, Manners and Respect


Legal Responsibilites:


A.  Publishing Recognizable Images: Gregg stressed that to be totally correct and legally responsible to always good to have a signed Model Release Form (the form he suggests as a model attached below) – this gives the subject the opportunity to reject the idea outright…  their legal right…


It allows you the freedom to use your image respectfully in print, on the net, stock image galleries, hanging in photography shows and other visual vehicles for commercial or personal interest.   


Another important feature of the Model Release Form is as a talking tool/ice-breaker and informal contract between you and the subject…  It is a sign of worth/respect for the person, and opportunity to share the experience with… It might even brighten their day and that is a very good thing… You have valued them both by taking their picture and by seeking their permission.  Sometimes it is appropriate to offer a payment of sorts: cup of coffee, glass of wine, money, tokens or even an email of the image when it is complete…


The whole area of “publishing” starts getting murkier (questionable) when you are talking about putting images on the Internet, self-publishing photo books for your own use (not for commercial gain), recognizable images in Blogs, Tweets, Facebook, email and all the other vehicles available today…  


Gregg emphasized – you totally lose control of your image and what can happen to it once it enters the Net...   However he suggested that to foil anyone attempting to use your images the best way to protect them is to post them in the smallest file possible  ( 72 dpi)  - this will give good image to the viewer but poor resolution for those who would try to tamper with the image…

Gregg’s Rule of Thumb:  “ Assume on-line image might be taken and used somewhere/somehow/by someone… “    He cited several cases where this sort of activity had devasting consequences to the families of those involved…


B. Invasion of Privacy:  Photography can be a very invasive weapon/tool - especially today with all the modes of taking images..

Gregg shared an incident where he was shooting general park pictures which included some kids playing in the skate park area… the kids asked him not to take their picture… Which he fully recognized as their perfect right and respectfully complied… If you are asked not to take pictures – do NOT take the pictures – everyone is entitled to their privacy, even in public places…

         Kids: The whole area of photographing kids these days is much touchier than ever - Kids are often instructed to tell people not to take their pictures and parents often worry about others taking pictures of their kids and where those images will go and how they will be used…  So it is particularly important to show common sense, respect and manners in this situation… these are very justifiable concerns given the invasiveness of photo taking these day and the wide reach and nefarious exploitation on the World Wide Web….


         Corporate Restrictions:  Another area of discussion was the actions of Corporate entities such as Disney to totally control their public image.   Burning Man Festival, you must apply to take camera into the site; images cannot be sold or published.  The Washington Vietnam War Memorial forbids the taking of pictures outright, which seems counter to the meaning of a public memorial, but so it is… This is so the organization has total control over public images and how they are used…  Gregg related a story about Michael Jackson Corp trying to restrict images by not allowing cameras into the concert site – but 20,000 iPhone images went onto the Web within minutes of the concert beginning… 


         Stock agencies: for the most part will not take/use images that are not accompanied by signed Release Forms.


         Group Shots and Street Photography:  are considered in the public domain – though if you have want to use them for commercial purposes it is best to get a signed release…


         Hanging Images in a Gallery show:  is usually considered okay as it involves a small selected audience, it is only available for the duration of the show and it has a very limited distribution…  Any publication of work from the show is another story as it is much more permanent and potentially a much wider distribution…


         Invasion of Privacy a Cultural/situational Consideration - in many countries because of past abuses or potential future abuses people are reluctant to have their pictures taken – this must be respected – you might unwittingly endanger your subject or their family, friends or neighbours… Be aware of your surroundings and the politics of the past and present with regard to photography… (editorial aside:  An example I have just learned is that in Southern Italy -  people are definitely not pleased to have their pictures taken, because of organized crime networks in the neighbourhood… this is especially true in public markets and cafes… something to keep in mind on the Grand Tour: the Sequel ).  In some countries it might be political repression, it might be military or religious – it is just a good idea to use Common Sense, Manners and Respect…


Another area of discussion was rights of Property Owners to refuse photographs; here we were talking about houses, building, cars, boats, products (Arts & Crafts or industrial) – personal property – even when it is in a public setting.  Gregg outlined the case of the Mary Tyler Moore home location were under contract and paid $80,000/year for use of the images of their house. They were also constantly harassed by MTM fans, but that was the consequence of their involvement. Fame or infamy ?


C. Demeaning to Individual:  This is a really tricky area – because the definition of demeaning is very subjective… there is presently work being done to curb inappropriate, obscene, and demeaning images, especially in the Social Media – in hopes of curbing revenge photography, harassment and cyber bullying… the papers and web are alive with this conversation at the moment…


International Responsibilities:  Legal and Ethical Issues are very much in the conversation with national and international law and policy makers (public, private and governmental stakeholders).  Gregg’s advises to us is to assume that crossing a border is a new set of laws and ethics – there are gray areas and overlapping and contradictory messages… Let photography etiquette be your guide:  Common Sense, Manners and Respect…   check on the cultural/situational norms before you travel for the area you are travelling in…


Discussion of the Club Website: 

Disclaimer to be posted on the Club Website:  compliments of Gregg Eligh

“ the SaltSpring Photography Club assumes no responsibility for  comments or image posted on this site.  Any comments or images are the total responsibility of the individual member/photographer who has generated and posted the image or comment.  The individual photographer assumes all responsibility for copyright, ownership, and right to post/publish their own images and comments.  Any questions or concerns regarding use of an image or comment must be directed to the individual member/photographer responsible “


In the discussion of the slideshows, website and Club shows – the goals of the club being interaction, sharing knowledge and feedback seemed to imply that posting is all right.  But if asked to remove it the Club has a policy of removing any image upon request by the photographer or anyone else… and it is done as quickly as possible after hearing from the concerned party… 


The question of “do we need a release ? ” –

  • If you have a release – no question as to the use of the image…
  • If you do not have a release for this image – is it newsworthy or in the public interest … not so much of a problem, but getting murky. 
  • If the image is hurtful or demeaning – the Club members has not used… common sense, manners or respect - the subject has the right to ask that it not be used and the right to expect it to be removed for the website as soon as humanly possible…


Summary:  The meeting was laced with wonderful stories from a professional in the field of Photography with a particular interest in the legal and ethical questions of the profession…. Gregg is obviously committed and enthusiastic about the discipline of Photography as a profession…He shared some wonderful ideas about shooting in public places and tips to prevent getting into trouble with your camera…

He repeatedly reminded us to use

Common Sense, Manners and Respect as our guide ---


And to get comfortable working with a Model Release Form --- Below is a copy of Gregg’s release form which he generously shared with us – and encouraged us create our own individual one.  He suggested getting them printed on a 4X6 pad to keep in your camera bag or pocket… (editorial comment - maybe add a picture on the reverse of the form of your home area or grandkids… a great talking tool…  )  Make it a Win/Win interaction… and offer to email a copy to the subject if you can get an email address or that of a contact/friend of the subject…


Thanks Gregg it was a wonderfully informative evening that stimulated a lot of questions and discussion, which I am sure will continue well into the future…


Another Word from the Alternate Sponsor:  Don’t forget the Painter’s Photography Retreat – first weekend in May, Painter’s Lodge, Campbell River.  Have fun, immerse in photography, eat and drink and talk photography with the professionals and other amateurs… Gregg guarantees a fun weekend will be had by all…


Curt’s Closing Questions for the Club members on going forward from this evening in the area of Legal/Ethics of Photography…  – for consideration by all and discussion at the December meeting:


  1. is there a need to continue the discussion… beyond the forum format currently running on the website… more meeting time devoted to discussion and questions… 
  2. Should we get Nancy Brown (a lawyer/photographer) to talk legal specifics … letter of the law as it applies to photography and the use of images…
  3. Whether a formal policy, rules and regulations on this issue is wanted for the Club and who will research, develop, vet and test them, as well as introduce them to the membership… This also encompasses enforcement and penalties for infractions and a system to manage that process...
  4. If the Club has liability of the website and what that looks like…


With regard to # 4 – a website disclaimer was suggested by Gregg and his wording was mentioned previously in the Website section of this document…


A sample policy statement was discussed…  and it sounded something like this (as it is still under discussion)

         Club Policy Statement:  The Work/Images of an individual Club member is the responsibility of that individual, not the Club, Club Exec, administration or website administrator or the general Club membership… “ The Club cannot and will not be responsible for the behaviour of individual Club members.  The Club will not be involved in the monitoring of individuals and enforcing punitive actions… This paternalistic approach is totally counter to our Club ethic, culture and environment.  Each individual Club member is totally responsible for the outcomes of their behaviours and will deal with them appropriately to reflect: Common Sense, Manner and Respect… “


It was a wonderfully interactive, participatory and instructive evening…



Thanks again Gregg… 

If anyone has any corrections, additions or comments feel free to add them… 

Cheers... MCB 

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Comment by Avril Kirby on December 10, 2013 at 8:03am

Well done, Marg! Clear and complete and more than I remembered.

Comment by timothy gibbon on December 4, 2013 at 11:21pm

yes, thank you.

Comment by Patricia Page on November 29, 2013 at 3:32pm

Wonderful note taking skills - thanks so much Marg for doing this so clearly.

August minutes

Pierre introduced the new team who will help shape the Club in the future.

Simon Henson

Larry Citra

Maggie Vancik

Roger Brooks

Maureen Milburn

Ellen Vesterdal

Justene Tedder

Plus returning executive members:

Pat Page

Kahsia Hartwell

Wendy Rosier

Anna McColm

This group will infuse some new energy and direction into the Club. Feedback from club members indicates that people would like more interactive educational activities (workshops, classes, small field trips etc.) and maybe a schedule of educational opportunities ahead of time so that people can plan to attend.

The Victoria Camera Club has an external speaker every month and are willing to share their list of speakers so we can participate, at a cost of $5 a person. The club has funds to cover this at the moment. This would require using the  Zoom format (which has worked so well during this Pandemic).

Club meetings will resume in October, giving this new group time to work out their ideas for new directions.

Some people are cautious about in person meetings (because of health issues) and others are ready and able to jump back in. Maybe in person meetings and Zoom meetings can co-exist. Something to talk about.

Maureen has offered to look into a monthly newsletter with, possibly, more coverage than the website offers such as emails, using facebook etc.

Avril would like to see an improved use of the website: more posts, more comments, more helpful critiquing. We might need a refresher course to remind us how to give constructive feedback.

Doug has a show about Covid in September at the library -  in the Community Program Room. He will give a talk on September 7th at Noon. This will be previously unseen material, not the triptychs we have seen on the website.

Photosynthesis has a virtual show coming up, starting on August 31st. Some club members also belong to this photography group.

There is no theme yet for the photography challenge in October but when that is decided it will be communicated to everyone.


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