A photograph can come into the possession of anyone who doesn’t have a right to it. A photograph is owned by the owner of the copyright that is in the photo. The copyright is owned by the person who took the photograph. Anyone can legally copy and/or display the photograph.
Why is it a crime to copy or display a photograph without permission?
The laws of the state that published the photograph (or the state of the town that owns the photograph) determine whether the person is in possession of the photo. This includes determining what rights are contained in the photograph. If there is no copyright owner or if the person has no rights to the photograph, there is no crime. A person has to have permission to copy or display the photo from the copyright owner.
Can I sue the person who took the image without permission?
If someone takes a picture without the owner’s knowledge or consent, it is considered a violation of the law to use or share that image without their permission (although the exact wording of the law is not spelled out by statute). However, it is very rare that someone will be held liable. You can also file a complaint against someone if you feel they infringed your rights.
Are there other laws about photos?
The United States Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case that has been in the works for about a decade and which would allow same-sex couples to wed in Canada on this country’s west coast. The court will be deciding whether couples should have the right to marry in Canada.
The issue has been before the Supreme Court for two decades with the two leading court parties on opposite sides of the issue. In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry set the stage for same-sex marriage in the U.S. The decision recognized the right of the federal government to prevent same-sex relationships from taking place through immigration laws. It was argued by the conservative Justice William Brennan, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was chief justice at the time.
Justice Kennedy said “the court has never, since that decision [in Hollingsworth], entertained an appeal based on a fundamental right to marry based solely on sexual orientation.” He went on to say “in my mind, these marriages are just as fundamental as any other marriage; that they were the product, not of social change or social engineering but of ancient marriages between close friends and family, and that they are an integral part of our society.”