The situation about image property is somewhat different in Quebec
from what it is in surrounding jurisdictions.
(The above involves a film made around the issue.[...])
More general info:
Shot without consent
by KRISTIAN GRAVENOR
The Montreal Mirror
Aug 4-10.2005 Vol. 21 No. 7
>> Local photographer crusades against Quebec-only restrictions on street photography
So you got one of those newfangled digital cameras and you've gone snaphappy, shooting photos of friends, relatives, strangers, pedestrians, squirrels, buildings, trees and fellow party animals. Then you send them around or pop them up on a Web site.
You might consider slowing down.
Little known fact about life in Quebec: if you don't have official permission from the people who appear in your photos, they can sue you for making such images public. And that applies even if you were to e-mail the picture to a few friends, or put it on a little-frequented Web site.
Quebec is the only place in North America where photographers are required to get permission from the subjects of photographs that will be presented to the public. The only situations where such a permission is not mandatory is when the photo is of a crowd, if it's considered legitimate news or considered to be in the public interest.
The rule is being strongly criticized, especially by veteran local photographer Gilbert Duclos, who describes the legal requirement as "imbecilic." He's presently touring with his 2005 documentary, La Rue Zone Interdite (This Street Off Limits), about the harm the rule is doing. Appearing in the film are photographers, including Roger Lemoyne, Yves Beaulieu and Marc Riboud, jurists, including former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer and Duclos' lawyer Viviane de Kinder, and journalists like Robert Ménard, founder of Reporters sans frontières.
Lens and law
Duclos has a pretty good idea about the issue. It was his 1988 photo of Pascale-Claude Aubry, then 17, wearing a black sweater and sporting cropped bleached hair sitting at the entrance of a downtown Scotiabank that led to the law. Duclos donated the photo to a small, now-defunct literary magazine Vice-Versa, which used the image on its cover.
Aubry - who hadn't given permission for the shot - claimed that the photo led people to "laugh" at her. She demanded $10,000 in compensation. Duclos offered an amount of "what I would have paid a model." She refused and sued, with the case going all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Aubry won. In 1998 the Supreme Court ordered Duclos to pay Aubry $2,000. More importantly, the court issued the edict that henceforth, publishing an unauthorized photo of somebody violates Quebec law.
"I denounce that decision," says Duclos. "I find it so stupid. I was in shock when it was announced. I never thought I'd lose. For years after that, I stopped doing photos in Montreal. Other photographers tell me, 'Gilbert, since your judgement, it's hell shooting here.' They all feel that they can't do anything because they have to ask permission all day."
Duclos believes the decision violates artistic expression and damages the future historical record of our era. "The whole story of street photography is based on images taken on the street without permission," he says. "The most beautiful photos are taken on the street just like that. When you ask permission, it's no longer natural. I feel that if the photo is degrading, then I can understand people objecting, but if it's somebody walking on the street eating an ice cream on a hot day or something, then it's not defamatory, there's nothing wrong with it."
Duclos's documentary was most recently screened in June at a photography conference in Prague. It will appear at the Ex-Centris theatre on Sept. 9 (in French).
He tried to interview Aubry for the documentary, without luck. He blurs out the forbidden photo of her in his film.
Watch what you shoot
Duclos blames the limitation on shutterbugs on the French Civil Code, which prevails in Quebec over common law, practiced elsewhere in North America. "The right to [one's own] image is an invention of French law," he says. "I made the film to show the stupidity of that notion."
But media lawyer Mark Bantey - another opponent of the photo restrictions - argues that a complaint made in another province would likely lead to the same restrictions applying there. "Right now it only applies to Quebec Civil Law, but I'm convinced that it will creep across the rest of Canada," he says. "I'm surprised it hasn't happened already, but I'm sure one day it will."
Nowadays, he says, people whose image appears in a paper without their permission - even when it's an image of a crowd shot or news report - are calling up media outlets to complain, asking for a payoff. "It has become a cottage industry," says Bantey.
Duclos doesn't see any immediate solution. The Supreme Court could overturn its own decision, but he doubts that will happen soon. "The danger is that it leads to self-censorship," he says. "If I can't publish my images, I'm not sure I still want to do photography. The decision goes against the whole tradition of photography."