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My ex-wife is not rational.
February 27, 2012 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Is it illegal to post photos of children on the Internet without both their parent's permission?

In the past, my ex-wife has asked me to take things down that I have posted of our son and I have done so, because it is simply easier than arguing with her about it.

Now she is asking me to tell my friends to remove photos they have posted of themselves that include my son. She says that it is inappropriate for them to have photos of him on their Facebook and that it is disrespectful to her. She says that they must take them down because they do not have her permission.

I told her they have my permission and that I don't think they need it anyways. She said we will hear from her lawyer. You are not my lawyer, but should I be worried?
posted by doomtop to Law & Government (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
No. Absolutely not.
posted by jayder at 1:42 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is perfectly legal to post photos of children on the Internet without either parent's permission.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


She says that it is inappropriate for them to have photos of him on their Facebook and that it is disrespectful to her.

This part is pretty much objectively true. Regardless of the legality. She doesn't have a legal position here, but seriously get the pics of your son off the internet. At least off anything publicly accessible.
posted by brainmouse at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2012


Google reasonable expectation of privacy. Legally, there's nothing really to stop you except the context in which the photos are posted, but reasonably, if someone asks you not to post pictures of themselves or their children, I would argue you should oblige as a gesture of good faith.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:48 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Illegal where? And, in any event, how is it your responsibility to make sure that your friends don't "disrespect" her?
posted by dfriedman at 1:48 PM on February 27, 2012


I don't think you have any reason to be worried.

But I don't think your ex is being unreasonable either.

If she feels strongly about protecting the kids' privacy by keeping their faces off the internet, I don't think that's irrational. Anyone can download their pictures for whatever reason, and as a parent, that creeps me out.
posted by kinetic at 1:49 PM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should also point out that the things she asked me to take down were because they were on YouTube. Her logic was that they are more publicly accessible. I have many photos of him on my Facebook and she is okay with that. She also has many photos of him on her Facebook. The photos my friends have posted, that she wants taken down, are also on Facebook.
posted by doomtop at 1:50 PM on February 27, 2012


Tell her you'll order the take-down of the photos the day she locks her child in the house, never to see the light of day again — because it's a reality that when you leave the house, your image may be captured (in the city, it's a certainty).
posted by heyho at 1:50 PM on February 27, 2012


Maybe I'm missing something, but why is it objectively true that having a picture of someone else's child on your Facebook page is inappropriate? I can think of many contexts in which it would seem totally OK for me to have a picture of my friend's kid on my Facebook page, for instance if me, my friend, and his kid all went to the park together or something and I decided to post pictures of our shared activity there. Maybe I'm reading things wrong, but I don't see anything inherently inappropriate here, let alone illegal.

Of course, if you (doomtop) are asking your friends to post pictures of your kid on Facebook as a deliberate Fuck You to your ex, then that would be inappropriate. Still not illegal, but definitely not good behavior. I don't really get that from the posting, mind.

Barring a disingenuous presentation of the subject (the purpose of which I would find hard to imagine) I see nothing wrong with your behavior, doomtop. I respect your desire to avoid getting your kid caught up in drama between you and your ex (and to avoid this drama in general) but at some point you need to set boundaries about what she can and cannot tell you to do in your life. To me, this would be a place where I would need to clarify a boundary and tell her that she does not have a say in whether or not you or your friends can put pictures of your child online.
posted by Scientist at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Offer a compromise. You make the YouTube videos only accessible to people with a direct link. The videos stay up, you have control over who sees them, your son's privacy is protected.

She's not being unreasonable.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2012


This Slate podcast discussion may interest you....

Don’t Post Pictures of My Kid on the Internet, part 2.
posted by jujulalia at 1:54 PM on February 27, 2012


Maybe I'm missing something, but why is it objectively true that having a picture of someone else's child on your Facebook page is inappropriate?

Sorry, I was mentally adding an "if the child's parent is uncomfortable with it", because that is the situation. I can't imaging posting pictures of my friends kids on facebook without knowing they were OK with it...
posted by brainmouse at 1:55 PM on February 27, 2012


This thread may be helpful to you.
posted by spunweb at 1:55 PM on February 27, 2012


These Birds of a Feather: The videos I posted on YouTube, and she asked me to remove, I did remove.

I feel like I need to draw the line at being responsible for stopping my friends from posting photos of him of their own accord. To be clear, I haven't asked or even encouraged any of my friends to post their photos of him. I just have friends who both like spending time with my son and like taking photos. I don't want to have to tell them they can't do either of those things if I don't have to.
posted by doomtop at 1:59 PM on February 27, 2012


I feel like I need to draw the line at being responsible for stopping my friends from posting photos of him of their own accord. To be clear, I haven't asked or even encouraged any of my friends to post their photos of him. I just have friends who both like spending time with my son and like taking photos. I don't want to have to tell them they can't do either of those things if I don't have to.

Thanks for the clarifications.

So she's okay with you two posting his picture on Facebook (and removing him from YouTube), but nobody else. And I assume that you both have privacy settings on friends only, not everyone or friends of friends.

But I still see her point. It's one of those things that if it's that upsetting to her, it's not a battle worth fighting. I'd just ask my friends to not post pix of my kid and to remove the ones up there.
posted by kinetic at 2:05 PM on February 27, 2012


You are not my lawyer, but should I be worried?

It's important to consider that "am I likely to lose a lawsuit?" and "am I likely to have to pay significant money and time to deal with a frivolous lawsuit?" are two completely different things.

Much of the above advice seems to be directed at the former question, and you might want to consider the latter question as well. Do you think your ex-wife might be willing to pay a lawyer to come after you? How big a deal would it be for you to deal with this likely frivolous suit? How much stress is it worth adding to the relationship you have with this person over the rights of your friends to post pictures online?
posted by andoatnp at 2:13 PM on February 27, 2012


Maybe some argument could be based on personality rights? Since Facebook is obviously a commercial operation. But I would think she'd have to take that up with Facebook rather than you or your friends.

On one hand, I personally don't think that you really should get to control photos other people take, but I also personally wouldn't want photos of myself or my children (if I had any) to appear anywhere on the internet or in any databases if I could help it.
posted by XMLicious at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2012


As I said in the previous thread, legally I bet you have more to worry about in terms of her making a custody issue out of this than her getting court orders that make people take the photos down.

You have to decide how important it is to appease her versus the other alternatives.
posted by grouse at 2:19 PM on February 27, 2012


Yeah I would like to modify my advice above to say that you totally should keep central in your thoughts your ex's likely reaction to whatever action you might take and its consequences for you, your son, and your ability to deal with your ex in a civil and reasonable manner. It may well be that your attempting to set a boundary may result in her waging a war on you and damaging your relationship with your son in the process, not to mention making his relationship with his parents more fraught and difficult to navigate. It is not for me to judge the likelihood of this (you know her better than I, of course) but it is something you should take into account.
posted by Scientist at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2012


Is there a reason she is unable to ask these friends herself? That's what an adult does, and that's what I'd tell her to do if she was insistent. It seems like it shouldn't be your problem, really. Unless for some reason she can see the pictures yet not message those friends, but I've never seen that happen.
posted by kpht at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


If she feels strongly about protecting the kids' privacy by keeping their faces off the internet, I don't think that's irrational. Anyone can download their pictures for whatever reason, and as a parent, that creeps me out.

Or indeed look at them in the street when you take them outside, or take photos and use them for whatever purpose. I understand your concern, but the fact is that we live in a world where none of us have much control over the multiple images that are generated of us each day. My sense of this is that her request is only reasonable to the extent that she is being reasonable about it. Negotiation and understanding seems to be key here, on both sides. I don't think any attitude to child privacy is obviously correct.

Invoking legal action at this stage, without even asking the people putting up the photos to take them down, seems pretty unreasonable.
posted by howfar at 2:58 PM on February 27, 2012


You are looking at this as a power battle between yourself and your wife. It is actually a disagreement about how best to protect your son's privacy online.

FWIW, I would never, ever post photos of someone else's child on my Facebook page without their explicit permission. I would step back and consider if this is actually thoughtful and respectful behaviour on the part of your friends. Regardless of the legal issues here, I think the approach of "Ex and I do not want photos of Little Doomtop online that we are not publishing and controlling ourselves" is actually a very valid stance a lot of parents adopt. (It might not be mine, and it might not actually be yours, I am just pointing out that it is not, in fact, Crazy Town.)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I always make FB pics I take of friends' children private/custom viewable. I let them decide if they want to re-post more publicly on their walls. I think it is about respect so I don't think it's an odd request from your child's mother. You get to decide what pics of yourself you want tagged etc, and until your kid can do that her/himself, parents protect their child's online presence.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks, this needs to not turn into a side conversation about stranger danger and kids on the internet generally. Sorry.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:47 PM on February 27, 2012


I think that her preference is a reasonable one to have. You note that she has a ton of pics of the kids on Facebook, and so do you. But the distinction is that she can control the privacy settings on the pictures she posts, and it sounds like you're both okay on the privacy settings you use for your account. Assuming she's not a "friend" of your friends on Facebook, and she can still see these pics of the kids popping up, she knows the privacy settings on your friends' accounts are looser.

This is not the same as walking around in public, because the children are more identified by being posted on Facebook: they are associated with the names of the acquaintances who posted the pictures, and they may be tagged with your name.

That said, this strikes me as the sort of preference that you just have to accept you might lose when you get divorced, unless you happen to share the same opinion with your ex-spouse on that issue. It doesn't strike me as the sort of health-and-safety-level concern that is reasonable to force on the ex-spouse.

So in the end, it seems like the ball is in your court: it's not illegal, it's not something she can really force on you, but it does seem like a reasonable preference that you could choose to comply with, as opposed to the kind of control-freak craziness that you should resist on principle.
posted by palliser at 4:26 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's legal and there's do-you-want-to-draw-the-line-here?

Does the law require a photographer have even one parents' permission? Generally, no. If the child were used as a model on a commercial project, then there would be a model release, etc. If this is friends posting pics from hanging out last weekend, they don't need anyone's permission

Would it be reasonable to accomodate the other parent? That's up to you. I would consider something like this:

- are the photos not posted for public viewing (ie by anyone at all)? then explain this to the other parent and ask what their concerns are. Listen politely. If you agree with their concerns, then act to limit access. Is there a particular person the other parent is concerned might see the pictures? Creepy Aunt Mary or Uncle Bob? Then perhaps take steps to limit access.

- are the photos posted for public viewing by someone else? If you're OK with it, say "look, I'm ok with it, but if you want to contact the friend directly, be my guest." If the parent's request is crazy or you disagree with it, you don't have to be the messenger.

- if you think however that this one issue is going to result in too much grief for you or poison an otherwise decent relationship with an ex, I'd think beyond what's allowed to 'what will make your life the most peaceful.'
posted by zippy at 5:01 PM on February 27, 2012


No, it's not illegal to post a kid's pictures on the internet, whether the kid is your or not and whether you have either parent's permission. That said, one thing I would do is make sure the kid in those photos isn't identifiable beyond their first name: just "here's Little Doomtop on the swings", not something like "here's Little Doomtop of 1234 Main St., Philadephia, Pennsylvania, on the swings at Huntington Park on Jan. 1, 2012".
posted by easily confused at 5:06 PM on February 27, 2012


Generally, the photographer owns the copyright to a photo, not the subject. Of course, unless it were involved in commercial or illegal uses.
posted by xtine at 5:19 PM on February 27, 2012


"Friends, my ex-wife doesn't want any photos of the kids easily accessible online. Could you change your privacy settings so only you and I can see them?"
posted by clearlydemon at 5:51 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are these photos of your child or photos of an event your child was at? It would be weird, for example, if your friends had an album of "doomtop Jr" photos. However, if they're just showing up in photos of an event, a la "July 4th cookout", then it seems a lot more unreasonable on your wife's part.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2012


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