Legality of Photographs

There’s been an interest lately concerning the legality of sharing photos on Unsplash and I’m looking for some help. And while you may question why I share my photos on Unsplash to begin with, I’ll get to that later. For now, I could really use your input if you’re knowledgable in this area.

Question 01: I’m trying to figure out if I need some sort of model, location, property, or trademark release (or some other release I’m not aware of) for 17 of my photos. To view the rest of my photos (that I feel are safe) visit my Unsplash profile page.

According to Section 5 of the Unsplash Terms page, it sounds like I should be free from legal ramifications: "Note that the Unsplash License does not include the right to use: A. Trademarks, logos, or brands that appear in Photos / B. People’s images if they are recognizable in the Photos / C. Works of art or authorship that appear in Photos

If you download photos with any of these depicted in them, you may need the permission of the brand owner of the brand or work of authorship or individual depending on how you use the Photo."

Question 02: What is my course of action once I’ve shared a photo on Unsplash but decide to delete the photo? Am I simply at risk for the rest of my life?

From the Unsplash FAQ: “Please note: When a photo is deleted from Unsplash, we will do everything we can to prevent its further distribution, including preventing it from being viewed and downloaded through Unsplash. However, the Unsplash License is irrevocable, so copies of the photo that were downloaded before deletion may still be used.“



I haven’t asked a lawyer about it yet but photographer Zack Arias shared a video where he obtained this statement from attorney Carolyn E. Wright:

"Proceed with caution with dealing with Unsplash. Photographers who contribute photos there may find themselves in a lawsuit for a variety of reasons. While an end user clearly has the responsibility to secure permission for a commercial use of a photo of a recognizable person (as evidenced by a model release), stock agencies and photographers have been sued for right of privacy/right of publicity claims when posting and/or offering for licensing photos of people.

End users/publishers who use photos from Unsplash may be subject to liability and damages in several ways. For example, because copyright infringement is strict liability, publishers may infringe if the photos were uploaded and then used without the copyright owner's permission. Trademark owners may have a trademark infringement claim against the photographer and/or end user if the product photo causes confusion as to the source of the product or dilutes the trademark.

An attorney representing an aggrieved party likely will sue the publisher, Unsplash, and the photographer to increase odds of recovering damages for these claims. Therefore, the "free" element of Unsplash may ultimately cost you more than when using a traditional license model."



So, if you could be so kind and offer your input in the comments, I would love to hear them. And please don’t be anonymous, it’s hard for me to hold your comment with any weight if I don’t know who you are.

And because the internet is full of people that love to argue, let me assure you that I’m not one of those people. I’m genuinely looking for some mentors in the field of photography.



Photo 01


Photo 02


Photo 03


Photo 04


Photo 05


Photo 06


A business in NYC that I’m photographing “into.”

Photo 07


A friend’s arm. No model release.

Photo 08


Flatiron Building

Photo 09


Photo 10


Golden Gate Bridge

Photo 11


Photo 12


Private property (photographed while staying at Airbnb)

Photo 13


Private property (photographed while staying at Airbnb)

Photo 14


Private property (photographed while staying at Airbnb)

Photo 15


Private property as seen from a public road (Virginia).

Photo 16


Private property as seen from a public road (Virginia).

Photo 17


Santa Monica Beach

What do you think? Do any, some, all of these need a release of some kind? Which numbers need which releases? Your help is greatly appreciated, not only by me, but by other amateur photographers looking for clarification.



Bonus Content

Ok, it’s not really bonus content but it’s some info that I found useful that you may as well.