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Photography Question 
Mary C. Casey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/24/2007

Family release for gravestone photos?

Does anyone know if a photographer has to get a release from family members to publish photos of graves and gravestones? The ones I am interested in are 100-300 years old.

Thank you!

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10/14/2008 8:18:26 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  I would say, and quite generaly, btw, it depends on what you actually use the photos for, how recognizable the graves are, the description (if any), where you took them (i.e., on public or private property, along with the laws for defamation in your state and the state where you recorded the images. It also depends on how a reasonable heir or assignee with normal sensibilities would construe the images.

For example: Did you have a release for the photo of the grave stone of Mary Cotton that you doctored up and entitled "The Ghost of Mary Cotton"? That stone is quite recognizable and some of Mary's descendents might be hurt by the fact that their departed one's soul isn't at rest based on your image and the description you applied to it. Getthepicture ;>)

And as an additional example, look at this web site:
This cemetary, located in Chicago, is quite famous and been around for a long time. In perousing the site, you'll notice that in spite of a lot of photographs, photos of gravestones are conspicuously absent and probably with good reason.

Read up on the subjects of property releases and then talk to a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property where you live. This isn't a good place to get legal advice because you can't rely on it as a defense at the time of trial. A release from a cemetery manager might be of some value but again, in all likelihood that would depend on the laws of privacy, property ownership and management in the state where you recorded the images.

Remember too that merely because a private cemetery leaves the gates open during the day time doesn't grant photographers the license to enter and photograph and publish those images. And the words "Open to the Public" don't necessarily mean it's public property. Lastly, churches are not public property nor are their cemetaries.

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10/14/2008 9:40:37 AM

Mary C. Casey
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/24/2007
Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I am interested in researching a book on gravestone carvings through the years, and was hoping to have interesting photographs to illustrate them. I will have to research and see if any books like this exist and how the photographer gives credit to whoever.

Maybe I should just let them 'rest in peace!'

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10/14/2008 10:31:03 AM

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