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Dear Ministry Partners:

You just had a successful community event at your church and there are several photos that you think would look perfect in your newsletter and on your website. You might be wondering what the protocol is for using images of people. Do you need their permission?

“As society becomes increasingly concerned with individual privacy as well as increasingly dependent on information technology, the use of digital images in ministry publications and websites presents significant questions regarding legal liability,” says Jim Hanson, corporate attorney for Brotherhood Mutual.  The below guidelines will help you sort out when you need to have permission and when it's okay to post away! 

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God Bless You & Your Ministry,
John Korsmo
Event Photos

In general, it is usually acceptable to use a photo from an organizational event as long as the people photographed are not individually identified. “The law of privacy is generally concerned with protecting an individual’s ‘reasonable expectation of privacy,’” says Hanson. By attending a public event, the individuals would not likely have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’. However, if you will be identifying the people by name, it is best to have them sign photo consent forms.

Photos of Guest Speakers and Well-Known Figures

So, you’ve invited a guest speaker to an event at your church and you want to promote their presence, or you want to note on your website that a well-known religious leader endorses your ministry. Can you use the guest speaker’s or well-known leader’s photo?

The best practice here is to have written consent from the individual outlining how his or her name or image will be used and expressing that it is for promotional purposes. “The law of privacy allows a person to seek legal protections from the use of his or her name or image by another person or organization,” says Hanson. “So, it’s best to be careful in this instance, especially with the development of ‘publicity rights’ of celebrities and other influential people now taking shape.”

Member Directory Photos

The best practice for member directory photos and information is to have each member sign a form acknowledging that their image and personal information—such as name, address, and phone number—will be used in the directory. The form should allow members the option of withholding or protecting some or all of their information.

In the case of online directories, it is also recommended that ministries refrain from posting any identifying information (home addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information) on public, non-password protected websites for privacy and safety reasons. Online directories should be password protected to ensure that identifying information is restricted to members of the congregation.

Download our Photo Use Agreement >>

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