Policy and Code of Ethics Regarding Photos on My Web Sites and Servers


Background. Recent events have indicated that it's time I explained my personal code of ethics and operating procedures regarding photos in my collections. I am a freelance amateur photographer. I take huge quantities of photos and have many more sent to me via e-mail and regular mail. A number of these photos end up on my web sites for public viewing. On rare occasions, I may place a few files in an unlisted private directory for use only by selected individuals. One such occasion occurred several years ago when I was asked to identify possible dumping sites at a small Pacific island I was stationed on more than 30 years ago. This was done for the Coast Guard civil engineers in Honolulu who were tasked with cleaning up any remaining pollution. More recently several photos were made available to police and Fire/EMS personnel following a fatal traffic accident, using the same procedure as the Coast Guard photos.

"Posted on the Internet." Here is a discussion about the internet, and more importantly, what is "posted on the internet". If you go to a news group (and there are tens of thousands of them) and post a photo, it is there for the world to see and it's there for keeps. That is "posted on the internet".
If you have a web page with photos and there are links to that web page from within your own site and/or from outside sources, then that page is available for public viewing and is "posted on the internet". Unlike newsgroups, however, you can delete the files at will.
If you store information in a private unlisted directory on your server for the purpose of accessing the files at a later time or for making them available to a limited select audience, then it is "stored on the server", not "posted on the internet". All of us have personal sensitive information about ourselves stored on computers that are connected to the internet but that does not mean that the information is "posted on the internet". Unless you know where it is, and possibly have a required password, you can't get to it (hacking notwithstanding).

News Media. I do not present photos to the news media. I do not have the equipment or the interest in competing with professional photographers. I am appalled by the tasteless junk fed to the tabloids by unethical freelance photographers to whom NOTHING is off-limits. My photo collections contain no dead bodies and I will not photograph a dead body. My photos of accident scenes are taken from a short distance with no effort being made to accentuate a particular piece of evidence which may affect the outcome of litigation. However, my photos are available to any concerned parties who may need to recreate an accident scene and they are available free of charge. Accident photos will no longer be placed on a server connected to the internet due to problems with "secondary distribution" (which is beyond my control).

Payment for Photographs. I have yet to make the first nickel off a photograph taken freelance. I have occasionally been reimbursed for costs to take family or wedding photos. At times, I will be on the job when a photo opportunity comes along. If it will not affect my job, I may shoot a few pictures. But no matter how super the photo may turn out, I can not ethically take payment for doing one thing when I am on a salary to be doing something else. Any photos I do take while on the job, are generally taken on my behalf and are not the responsibility of my employer. In the event of an accident involving my employer or one of his clients, any photos that I manage to get will become the sole property of the employer or his client and I will relinquish all copies.
Example: Although I do not work for the railroad, I work closely with railroad employees through a service client. I take lots of routine railroad photos and many of them end up on one of my railroad web pages. However, in the event of a rail mishap, any photos I take will be totally relinquished to the railroad if so requested. They will not go to the media and they will not end up on my web pages or on any computer over which I have access except with the employer's permission. This applies to ANY employer for whom I may be working.

Sensitive Photographs. I have owned a camera of one kind or another ever since I was in the 4th grade. It has been a hobby for over 4 decades. No hobby, however, can be satisfying at the expense of someone else. Photography has the ability to document all the facets of life and life isn't always beautiful. Some of the most compelling photographs were taken in the face of human tragedy such as the naked Vietnamese girl who had been burned by napalm or the incredibly sad photo of a fireman holding a dying infant at the scene of the Oklahoma City bombing. But as hobbyist photographer, I cannot display a photo which someone finds offensive. I try to photograph real life but if someone finds a particular photo not to his or her liking, all it takes is a phone call or an e-mail to eliminate it. I don't question the reasons why - if they don't want the photo displayed, it's history.

Comments are welcome. My e-mail address is manual entry required - unclickable - unspammable