Kids, Pics, and Promos
Written by Audrey Austin
When you become a parent, you see the world with new eyes. You might discover that you look forward to being in bed before midnight, find a previously unknown tolerance for cleaning up bodily fluids, or lose your inhibitions about singing in public. Among all the new, wonderful, and disgusting experiences of parenthood, you also become legally responsible for another person. As such, you are able to sign consent forms, release forms, and legal documents in your child’s name, agreeing to the underlying policies of each document. One such form might be a release allowing the use of your child’s image by an organization or company.
I had a recent encounter with an information policy regarding my child’s image. He is a patient at C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI. In October, they were soliciting nominations for their 2014 Little Victors calendar (C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 2013b). The 2013 calendar was sold for $5, and each participating patient received two free calendars (Priest, 2012). Entries were accepted from current and former Mott patients. As a fan of the hospital’s Facebook page, I have seen photos and stories of children who were part of last year’s calendar posted throughout the year (C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 2013a). I thought I knew the extent of what I was signing up for when I nominated my son. Of course, I would have to share some of his medical history and a photograph, and these would appear in the calendar and on Facebook.
I was surprised by the scope of the release form. Permission to release my child’s information was broken down into three parts with the option to approve or deny each. The first was to release the information, which included health as well as “photographs, videos, electronic or other media” containing my child’s image (University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, 2010). The second was a media release, allowing for his image to be used in various forms of media, including the Internet, TV, print and radio. The third was a public relations release, so that the information could be used “indefinitely for educational, promotional, public relations, or marketing purposes” (University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, 2010). In addition to being able to refuse any of these permissions, there was also a space to write in my own exceptions to the policy. The proper channel for revoking permission was also included. I was relieved to know that I was not signing away ownership of my child’s image and information, just allowing the hospital to use it. I have essentially leased it to them, and retain the ability to cancel that lease, all or in part.
This is all well and good, as long as I have the right to share the information. While I was filling out the paperwork, the gentleman assisting me related a story from last year in which a picture of a patient with his nurse was used in the calendar. The patient’s mother signed the release for her child, but no such release was gained from the nurse. As may be expected, the nurse was not thrilled about seeing her image used in the hospital’s calendar without permission. The mother took the photo with her camera, but was she within her rights to use it for the calendar?
Children have the same rights to privacy as adults (LexisNexis, 2013). Our image, or likeness, is a personal thing. It lives in the intersection of the First Amendment and Right to Privacy. In a private setting, such as one’s home, a person is protected from being photographed unknowingly. When we are in public, we forfeit a large degree of our expectation of privacy. Thus, it is not against the law to take a photo of someone in a public setting. A person’s image acquired in such a way can be lawfully used without permission, as long as it is not “used to promote a product, service, idea, or thing” (Rocket Lawyer, 2013). This includes posting and publishing images to the Internet. If the hospital’s use of the nurse’s image was in fact promotional, then the mother did not have the right to release the image without permission, and should have used one that only featured her child.
We sign release forms on a regular basis throughout our lives. When something becomes routine, it can easily be ignored or overlooked. For every doctor appointment, sport, activity, or even school year, there are forms to be signed. Of course, it is excellent practice to read these forms before signing, to understand the information policy to which you are agreeing. It is also important to know your rights in regards to your personal information, including your image.
C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital. (2013a). C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital Facebook page. Retrieved from Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mottchildren
C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital. (2013b, October 25). Calling all little victors. Retrieved from U of M Health Blogs: http://uofmhealthblogs.org/childrens/calling-all-little-victors/9277/
LexisNexis. (2013). Child photography or videotaping consent laws are changing. Retrieved from Lawyers.com: http://communications-media.lawyers.com/privacy-law/Child-Photography-or-Videotaping-Consent-Laws-Are-Changing.html
Priest, R. (2012, October 18). Calling all conquering heroes. Retrieved from U of M Health Blogs: http://uofmhealthblogs.org/childrens/calling-all-conquering-heroes/1763
Rocket Lawyer. (2013). When photographers need a photo release or use of likeness. Retrieved from Rocket Lawyer: http://www.rocketlawyer.com/article/when-you-need-a-photo-release.rl
University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. (2010). Permission to release information including photographs, videos, electronic, or other media. Retrieved from U of M Health Blogs: http://uofmhelathblogs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Attachment_c-_patientreleaseform.pdf