Legal Q&A: Selling photo goods

Q. Is it legally appropriate to offer an online marketplace through my newspaper’s website whereby a customer can have an image or video published by the paper to be placed on a new product for sale (i.e. coffee mug, calendar, digital picture/video frame)?

By SCPA Attorney Taylor Smith

A: Yes, it is technically lawful for a newspaper to sell its original content (photo, video, copy, etc.); however, civil liability may stem from such sales when the subject of the original content sues for damages. In essence, you will almost always be protected from using a picture of that person in your news reporting, but if you sell that picture in your online store, the pictured person may have a claim against your paper for appropriation of their likeness if permission or compensation is not provided.

Taylor M. Smith IV is a media lawyer who represents the S.C. Press Association and its newspapers. As one of our FOI/Legal Hotline attorneys, he is available to answer your open government, legal and libel questions. Call (803) 750-9561.

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