Piscataway, NJ asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for New York

Q: Is it illegal if I take/use pictures of nightclubs using my own phone/camera to use on my app that's based on NYC clubs?

I am creating an app that helps people make smarter decisions when going out. We have a lot of venues on the app and reached out to many to see if we can use their content (from Instagram and their websites) but we have not received a response yet. We have read the privacy terms on various clubs but are still unsure if taking our own pictures/videos of the venue is illegal or not, especially if we feature them on our app. We are also unsure about the legality of having other people (event-goers) being in our videos, especially without their permission. Any help and clarification of these copyright laws would help me out very much!

3 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: The legality of using your own photos and videos of nightclubs for a commercial app depends on several factors. Here are some key considerations:

1. Copyright: If your photos/videos capture any copyrighted material such as artwork, logos, or distinctive architectural features, you would need permission from the copyright holder to use them commercially.

2. Right of Publicity: If your photos/videos clearly show identifiable individuals, especially if they are the focus of the image, you may need their permission due to "right of publicity" laws. These laws vary by state.

3. Venue Policies: Some clubs may have policies prohibiting commercial photography/videography without explicit permission. Check if there are any posted notices or disclaimers.

4. Expectation of Privacy: There's generally less expectation of privacy in a public space like a nightclub compared to a private setting. However, if you capture any private moments or show people in an embarrassing light, that could be problematic.

5. Commercial Use: Since your app is commercial in nature, there's a higher legal standard and need for permissions compared to just taking photos/videos for personal use.

Given the commercial nature of your app, the safest approach would be to get explicit permission from the nightclubs to feature your own photos/videos of their venues. For any shots prominently featuring identifiable individuals, it's advisable to get their permission too, perhaps via a release form.

If a nightclub does not respond to your request, do not assume you have permission to use their intellectual property. Consult with a lawyer specializing in intellectual property and media rights to get specific guidance for your app and situation.

Remember, this is general information and not legal advice. Intellectual property and publicity rights laws can be complex, so it's best to consult with a qualified attorney to assess your specific case and ensure you are legally compliant. Better to be cautious upfront than risk legal issues down the road.

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Little Neck, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Intellectual property issues aside, there is the matter of privacy. You're correct - using subjects in photos without their permission could result in privacy issues. Good luck

Giselle Ayala Mateus
Giselle Ayala Mateus
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: In developing an app aimed at helping users make informed decisions when going out, it's crucial to consider copyright laws when using content from venues, such as photos or videos from Instagram and websites. While reaching out to venues for permission is a commendable step, the absence of a response does not necessarily grant permission to use their content. Using photos or videos without explicit permission could potentially infringe on the venue's copyright.

What about taking your own original photos or videos of the venues to feature on your app? By creating your own content, you avoid the risk of copyright infringement and have full control over the material used. However, be mindful of capturing images of other people, such as event-goers, as their likeness may be subject to privacy laws or rights of publicity. Without their consent, using their images could potentially lead to legal liabilities, especially if they can be identified in the content.

By proactively addressing these legal considerations, you can develop your app while minimizing the risk of copyright infringement and other potential legal challenges.


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