Yes, copyright infringement is a serious offense. Although each state has its own specific guidelines as to how and where a person can legally take photographs and distribute them, California, by law, prohibits the possession of copyrighted artwork in public areas (including libraries).
Is it legal to do this in San Diego?
Yes. You have to register your photographs with the city of San Diego, which has a list of people who can use the photos; if you fail to do so you face charges for copyright infringement. You can register your photographs on the city’s website. If you think that an image is copyrighted, there’s no telling where that image might end up next.
So are there any exceptions?
There is no question that it is illegal to take photographs of anyone for profit (unless you have a specific and valid use, which could be very broad). Additionally, photography is protected under copyright and trademark law.
So do you have to tell people who take your photographs where you take them?
Most cities have specific guidelines on what you can and can’t do in a photograph.
So what if you take a picture of someone in order to tell them where they can get the photo taken from?
The California Civil Code makes that a violation of Penal Code section 621(c)(4). It’s a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a $500 fine and/or both.
Is it okay for someone in San Diego who is trying to sell something to take a picture with people in an attempt to market their product?
Yes. This is not the same as selling your own photography, but you’re generally allowed to take pictures of people as long as you have a reasonable belief that it might help promote the sale of product, with the following exceptions:
You must take the shot first to make sure nobody is looking at it;
If the person’s gaze is directly on the photographer, you may take the picture without asking before you leave;
Any other use of the photograph of someone that infringes or otherwise violates copyright law is legal if you can prove that (1) you took the photograph with a good faith belief that you’re doing so for a legitimate legal purpose and (2) the other party didn’t object at the time of taking the picture;
If your sale involves a photograph, you must show that you have made it a reasonable effort to seek prior consent before you decide to print or otherwise reproduce
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