flickr snafu.
June 11, 2007 3:45 PM   Subscribe

What does the rulebook say about posting pictures of a minor whose parents are divorced?

My boyfriend and I share a flickr account and post pictures of his son on our stream. (I basically maintain it, he just puts up pictures when convenient.) His mom said that she wanted the pictures of the boy removed as they both have to give consent since they share custody... The clincher, though, is that if I don't remove them she'll file a restraining order against me.

"... since we share legal custody, we BOTH need to give approval for her to post pictures of him. I met with my lawyer and the next step is for me to file a restaining order. This will be public info and cost me a bunch of money, but I am willing to do it if needed."

It seems like an extreme measure to me and I have hope that my boyfriend has a say in what goes on in our household versus her obnoxious attempts at making up rules for all of us. She plays it off as looking out for his best interests but that hardly matches her attitude from a few weeks back when she offered to relinquish custody so that she could move out of town.

The pictures are either of the father and son together, the son playing kickball, riding his bike or involved in some other activity. Is there really any harm in this? What are our rights?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Two responses you will see very often, shortly:

"What state are you in?"

"You need to speak to a lawyer."
posted by disillusioned at 3:54 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is there really any harm in this?

Probably none, but kids are a funny thing that way. I've got some great photos of my niece having fun at the zoo that I've hidden from public view at my sister's request, for pretty vague, handwave-y reasons—I think it's silly, but it's important to her and it's hardly worth starting a fight about, and we're on very good terms.

You may want to talk to a lawyer about her and her lawyer. And regardless of what your rights turn out to be, you should consider whether this particular fight is one you want to get into, and get your boyfriend and his son into.
posted by cortex at 3:58 PM on June 11, 2007

We're in California....
posted by thisisfake at 3:59 PM on June 11, 2007

You could always set the photos on Flickr as family and/or friends only and they will appear, to anyone not in your contacts as family/friends, to have gone.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:03 PM on June 11, 2007

Is there any harm in posting the pictures? Well, I would personally say no, there is no harm. Yes, there is a remote possibility that some disturbed individual would use the pictures of him in a way none of you would approve of. That is the only, and supremely paranoid, reason I would be careful about putting pictures of any kids online (and it's the reason I don't put beach pictures of my nephew online, for example).

From what you have said, though, that does not seem to be the reasoning behind this request, it seems more like a power play of some kind. Putting a restraining order on you because of some pictures on Flickr? Way beyond the realm of any normal way to react, IMHO.

I don't know what your rights are, that's for a lawyer to determine, but you may want to at least put the pictures of him as private for the time being, and only offer access to them for friends and family. Would this be an acceptable compromise for all of you?

Sorry, not much of an answer. At least know that your reaction to this "request" is probably how most regular people would react.
posted by gemmy at 4:15 PM on June 11, 2007

since we share legal custody, we BOTH need to give approval for her to post pictures of him

Actually, I imagine NEITHER of the parents need to give approval for you to post the pictures in the way you are describing.

But the mother might turn this into a custody issue, so you should really talk to a family lawyer, if you want to avoid having your custody arrangement adjusted. I would think any sensible judge wouldn't let this sort of thing affect it, but I know nothing about family law and your lawyer hopefully knows a lot.
posted by grouse at 4:19 PM on June 11, 2007

I'm have no idea what the legal answer is. But Idon't think it has to matter. For the sake of peace and harmony in your family, you're better off by routing around her transparent attempt to escalate a trivial matter into a war. The kid doesn't need to see things go there, and you don't need to waste any energy on going there. So just email the photos for now, or send prints, or hand out DVDs. Whatever you do, it' won't have to be for long. Once her silly attempt to pick a fight fails to get a satisfying rise out of you guys, she'll go back to wanting to bail out of her child's life. Now there's something worth saving money for; he's going to need counseling, and you're going to need legal advice, to deal with the consequences of abandonment.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Talk to a lawyer about it. If she is on shakey ground, also talk to the lawyer about slapping her with a restraining order for harassment.
posted by Good Brain at 4:22 PM on June 11, 2007

I'd agree with Nakedcodemonkey about taking the high ground and not making a fuss about this, but if this is a powerplay, doing so will likely encourage her to try more BS.
posted by Good Brain at 4:24 PM on June 11, 2007

I don't believe you need anybody's permission to post the photos, much less both parents. But IANAL.

Oh and I'm not a lawyer.
posted by Justinian at 4:40 PM on June 11, 2007

For heaven's sake.


You can either have as your goal to work toward a functional family relationship wherein the kid feels that all the adults in his life have his best interests at heart, OR you can obsess over a zero-sum points system wherein you win when the bitch mom loses.

Take the pictures down. Stop caring who gets the win. Call the mom and say "God, I'm so sorry! It didn't even occur to me that posting pictures of Junior wouldn't be cool-- he's just such a wonderful kid, and I love bragging about him to my friends. I wanted to share his greatness with the world." A month later, call and tell her that you're emailing her a slew of new pictures of the kid, chat about them, and ask if it'd be okay to send a few around with a family news email. If you can stop caring about who's where in the power rankings, you can accomplish great things.

Or, of course, you can contact a lawyer and start socking money away for the kid's therapy. Your choice.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:42 PM on June 11, 2007 [8 favorites]

My ex has raised this same issue with me.

I would recommend you talk to a lawyer - but they are going to say that she has the right to bring this matter to court if she wants. (which is as it should be, really)

I'm in WI, and my lawyer told me to call her bluff.

I did, and she didn't sue.

FWIW, she's tried other stuff to try and dictate how I run my house, and despite all of her bluster she has yet to file suit. She's the wolf outside the brick house. Your situation may be different, but perhaps this might help. Good luck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:49 PM on June 11, 2007

I think nakedwhatever probably has the best answer...Probably, in my absolutely-unresearched-totally-off-the-cuff-not-legal-advice guess, the biological father alone (assuming shared legal custody) can likely consent, but in the scheme of things do you really want to make THIS the big fighting point? As un-transparent as the mother's reasoning is, as others have pointed out the objection DOES have at least some rational basis in reality (although in the real world they are almost certainly an impotent attempt to stir discontent between you and your man). Viewed in that light, keeping in mind the stunning irrationality of most custody decisional type arguments, and with the reasonable expectancy of far more important battles to come (i.e. education, employment, residency, healthcare and other key custodial issues), the most graceful choice - at least on YOUR part - is to tell your man "Hunny, I am staying out of this issue between you and the mother of this child and as you are the Dad, who I know has Junior's best interests always in mind, I totally defer to your decision and will happily fall into line accordingly". You're going to come out looking like A Lady in that, as my Daddy might say. And even more importantly, you would be doing the right thing for Junior by modeling mature, composed behavior.
posted by bunnycup at 4:55 PM on June 11, 2007

(Clarification: By "the biological father alone...can likely consent" I meant to say that the consent of Dad is enough...Mom and Dad probably don't need to agree on consent in this area. Distinguished from non-emergency surgery where both parents sharing legal custody would need, at least here in my home state, to agree. Just a guess though...)
posted by bunnycup at 4:58 PM on June 11, 2007

IANAL but I think that a person's right to privacy means that you shouldn't post pictures of them in public without their consent unless there is a public interest factor (like they are famous or they are involved in a news story). In this case, since it is a minor, he can't give consent, it has to come from his legal guardian(s). I have no idea what the law says if they disagree but there is a chance that she might be right.

Whether or not she is right, I like thehmsbeagle's attitude although I would assume that her rights apply only to public display - and simply not discuss private sharing of the photos. Also, only call if your bf and his ex are actually talking to each other. If she is likely to misquote you, then stick to email or just not talking.
posted by metahawk at 5:00 PM on June 11, 2007

IANAL but I think that a person's right to privacy means that you shouldn't post pictures of them in public without their consent

You are completely wrong. Except for the part about not being a lawyer.
posted by grouse at 5:11 PM on June 11, 2007 [5 favorites]

Grouse, I know what you are saying - yes the Right to Privacy as a legal term of art does not restrict usage of pictures taken in a public place - but that does not mean Metahawk is totally wrong. We're talking about putting pictures of a kid online, and (as you can see from what I said above) while I don't necessarily agree with the Mom's obvious tactic of raising this issue to cause strife, maybe it's worth taking a moment to think about whether, 10 years down the line, kids will want their pictures all over their parents' flickr thingies. Maybe it's worth thinking here about whether what the law ALLOWS you to do legally, is nevertheless not the RIGHT thing to do, in the long run. I think, though I don't want to be putting words in anyone's mouth, that's what Metahawk was intimating.
posted by bunnycup at 5:18 PM on June 11, 2007

I take pictures of other people's my friends' children, and I usually post them to flickr marked as "family + friends only." It makes sharing these pictures with the child's grandparents etc a bit more difficult, but lots of people are uncomfortable with having pictures of their children publicly accessible on the internet. I imagine it would be magnified if the poster was someone who you can't (due to circumstances surrounding a divorce, related emotions, whatever) nicely ask to take the pictures down or make private.

My point being: the sentiment she is expressing is valid, even if the way she is expressing it is not-so-much.

If I were you (or the boyfriend) I would mark all the pictures as "friends+family" only, tell the mother that they have been taken down, and move on.
posted by misterbrandt at 5:25 PM on June 11, 2007

bunnycup: Since the entire comment is about who needs to gives consent to make the posting legal, it is indeed totally wrong. While your points are well-taken, bunnycup, that's not really what Metahawk's comment appears to say. I've been trying to focus on what I see as the main thrust of the question, but I'm happy for others to discuss whether this is right in a non-legal sense.

misterbrandt: What does it mean that that the sentiment is "valid?" That many other people share it? Many people have many other stupid ideas as well.

For what it's worth, I have taken down or de-labeled pictures of others in the past for no reason other than that they asked. But if someone immediately started with unjustifiable legal threats I'd probably refer them to the reply in Arkell v. Pressdram. Given the custody issues, it might be a good idea to tread more lightly in this case. But on the other hand, it might not be a good idea to give the ex the idea that she can get her way whenever just because she sends you a dubious legal threat.
posted by grouse at 5:46 PM on June 11, 2007

I'll step in and give a shout out to "the sentiment she is expressing is valid" -- as I took it to mean that it's perfectly valid for her to feel the way she feels about the pictures being online, assuming that her feelings are genuinely towards protecting her child. You'd be surprised by how fiercely some people protect their own privacy and the privacy of their children; it's really not fair to say she's crazy for having those feelings.

On the other hand, threatening a lawsuit probably isn't the best way to have handled the situation, and it's certainly possible she's just stirring up trouble -- but it's worth considering the possibility that she's actually just kind of a privacy type, like the people who won't use the grocery store advantage cards* because they don't like the idea of their shopping history being tied to their address.

to be honest, I'm one of those.
posted by davejay at 5:55 PM on June 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're probably in the right and a real court would side with you, but family courts are not real courts and they will side with whoever the heck they feel like, usually the mother. Take the pictures down.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:55 PM on June 11, 2007

"the sentiment she is expressing is valid" -- as I took it to mean that it's perfectly valid for her to feel the way she feels

I guess I was looking not for a definition of the phrase, but rather what sort of reasoning process was used to decide that this particular sentiment was valid but others are not. The supporting argument seemed to be that many others feel the same way.
One might equally say that my sentiments are valid when I say that her sentiments are totally unjustified. Many others will agree with me. If that is all there is to it, then I don't think "emotional validity" is useful in deciding anything.
posted by grouse at 6:12 PM on June 11, 2007

The rule from the point of view of someone who's had to use photos--if you're in a situation where you'd need a release, and a minor is involved, a parent/guardian has to sign for the minor.

I'm not a lawyer, blah, blah, blah, but that opinion actually came from a City Attorney's office in my jurisdiction a few years ago. Your legal environment may vary.

That would apply to commercial use, use where an endorsement is implied, etc.

A follow-up question to the other answerers--can you provide any examples of someone ever having been sued for posting photos of kids in a custody battle to Flickr? You start looking, I'll wait here.
posted by gimonca at 6:20 PM on June 11, 2007

I don't have an answer, but I think her desire to have a say in where her kid's image is posted, or if it is posted online at all, is pretty valid.

I think you might get better results asking someone @ flickr (do they have support forums there?). My guess is that they've dealt with this issue or researched this issue at some point.
posted by necessitas at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2007

Not exactly related, but I have an FPP up about pedophiles posting children's personal information and pictures online. it doesn't appear to be illegal in california or washington, unless a specific threat is involved.
posted by phaedon at 7:11 PM on June 11, 2007

Seek lawyer.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:29 PM on June 11, 2007

I worked on a case similar to this in FL, and the judge couldn't have possibly cared less about the photos being online. YJMV.
posted by gatorae at 7:40 PM on June 11, 2007

i would ask her if it would be okay for you to keep the pictures up but only accessible to family and friends as her concern seems to be about having the pictures available to the public but otherwise, thehmsbeagle's answer rocks.

i mean, if the mom has a pattern of being difficult—or if you think this may be a prelude to more difficulties—then you should begin documenting and compiling evidence for when you really need to pick a fight. but calling for a lawyer now? over pictures on flickr? seems prematurely and excessively litigious when it can be resolved in a manner that will actually be beneficial to the kid's well-being.
posted by violetk at 10:13 PM on June 11, 2007

Grouse: I had a big long response written, and then I realized it would just adding fuel to the fire. Are you trying to help answer the question at this point, or just enjoying the argument?
posted by misterbrandt at 10:16 PM on June 11, 2007

Two things:

1. This isn't about the pictures.

2. There is no "Right To Privacy."
posted by rhizome at 11:06 PM on June 11, 2007

Choose your battles.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:53 AM on June 12, 2007

Mod note: bunnycup/grouse - METATALK for further discussion, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 AM on June 12, 2007

To go a step further, maybe the Mom is threatened by you and your relationship with her child. Your best course is to promote respect for the Mom (& Dad), and support a healthy relationship with the Mom (& Dad). If the Mom has privacy concerns, respect that. Over time, the more you make it clear that you will support her relationship with her child, the less she will need to be threatened. Do the kid a favor, and make it easier for him to be shared. Someday, he'll thank you.
posted by theora55 at 7:44 AM on June 12, 2007

misterbrandt: If you can articulate why having the pictures are harmful then perhaps that would be helpful to the OP, either by persuasion or simply in understanding a potential good faith motivation of the mother.

I would hope you would be able to do so without adding fuel to the fire, as you say. I apologize for characterizing your argument as simply relying on others feeling the same way, but to date that is all I have seen from several who have repeated the claim that these sentiments are "valid." I know you are smart people so there must be more to it than that, and I am trying to understand what.
posted by grouse at 8:12 AM on June 12, 2007

Here is a very, very long article about the legal aspects. IANAL, my understand is that: 1) You do not need permission from someone to take their picture, if you are not selling it or using it for advertising, and if they are in a public situation. 2) You CAN legally share such pictures, even on the internet. 3) Your legal right to own photos doesn't have any bearing on actual custody disputes, if the mother can paint you as a Bad Person.

I don't want to touch, too much, on the moral aspects, just to point out that, truly, photographers have rights, too, and being educated about what they are can save a lot of grief later in life.
posted by anaelith at 10:00 AM on June 12, 2007

AND, sorry, important point: make sure the licensing on your flickr photos is such that it cannot be used (all rights reserved). People have occasionally gotten in to trouble because they selected/allowed flickr to select a Creative Commons license, which could definitely confuse the situation.
posted by anaelith at 10:02 AM on June 12, 2007

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