When do you have to blur the faces of people you capture in your videos shot in public places?
Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.
Miranda wrote to me with this question:
When filming content for my YouTube videos, when do I need to blur out faces?
We mainly film our hikes and some passerby people.
We also filmed a new playground review while my children played.
I'm not sure if I'm supposed to blur out every single face. Since it's a city park, I don't know the specifics.
We plan many more hikes on public land/property and I just want to know for future.
(Also, if the law doesn't require me to blur faces, when is it still polite to do so? I just finished editing our new playground review and it took quite a while to blur out all of the faces of children getting in the shots… )
Great question. Generally, when you’re filming in a public place (like a park, or outdoors on publicly accessible hiking trails, etc., its perfectly OK to capture people and show them without blurring faces, PROVIDED your videos are noncommercial in nature (that is that they're not offering products or services for sale, or otherwise proposing some kind of business transaction).
BUT, when filming kids, it’s probably a good idea to blur faces of kids who aren’t the primary subjects of the video, if they are easily recognizable, shown in relatively close-up shots, and so forth. Especially if the location of the park is given… (here's a scenario… suppose we have a domestic violence situation, where spouse has taken the kids and is hiding out… but the kids have got to get out and run around… So they go to a park to get some air and have a little fun… if the other spouse sees your video and can determine what neighborhood the kids are in, it could be troublesome for that family).
And, of course, if someone ASKS you not to film them, or to blur them, you should probably respect their wishes… And There may be other circumstances where blurring makes sense… If a person is shown doing something that might be embarrassing (picking his nose, etc?) , if that’s not the whole point of the video… maybe it makes sense… Or where there's some implication of wrongdoing, or bringing scorn upon the person …
Bottom line, if a reasonable person wouldn't have an expectation of privacy, and you're not using any inappropriate means to capture their image, free speech and free press principles govern the situation… And you have a right to show them. Also, if the footage captures something newsworthy… Free speech and press.
But ultimately, unless you're doing some kind of exposé journalism, you want to be honorable about it… So use your judgment, and think about how you would feel if shown in the way your video shows others.
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