For First Amendment purposes, photographs taken at a recent public event (such as an event on the mall or athletic event) or illustrating a recent news story do not need a model release even if the photograph of the person is recognizable. The news photograph must be recent, taken in a public setting, and should not depict the recognizable person in a false light or leave a false impression that reasonable people would find highly offensive. The photograph should be posted soon after the event, be posted for only a short time, such as, one to two weeks, and then removed promptly.
Any photograph that does not fall under the ‘Recent Events & News Photograph‘ category above can be considered promotional, such as, photographs posted on a website, published in a printed piece or other media, which are used to promote a research project, academics or other university interests. A promotional photograph would be expected to persist for a longer period of time than a news event photograph, such as, a month, a year, or longer.
A recognizable webcam image of a student, employee, or visitor can be taken in a public setting where the person does not have a reasonable expectation to privacy without the need for a signed model release if the images are not stored but are immediately displayed. Images that are stored on a hard drive cannot be used for later display or other purposes without a signed model release.
The photographer of a particular photograph that you want to post may have copyright ownership in that photograph, requiring written permission before you can post the photo (in addition to obtaining a model photo release from person(s) identifiable in the photo).
Copyright ownership of photos taken by University employees or students within the scope of their activities as employees or students is subject to the University’s Intellectual Property Policy. However, written permission from a third-party photographer will be necessary if the photograph is not owned or licensed by the University as a work-for-hire or under the University’s Intellectual Property Policy, or the Fair Use doctrine under Federal Copyright law does not apply.
For a discussion on the application of the Fair Use doctrine see: