KINDNESS at MOUNT CARMEL COLLEGE
Is it illegal or otherwise wrong to photograph title-pages of student
assignments to illustrate a magazine or website article, with
publication dependent on consent from the school principal?
This question arose during "Open Day" at Mount Carmel College (MCC) in
the Religion room supervised by Assistant Principal Marianne Shaw.
One table displayed some single-sheet student assignments on the topic of kindness.
Nowhere was there a "No Photos Permitted" sign. Therefore I took two
photos of the "Kindness" assignments to possibly illustrate a proposed
future article in Investigator Magazine and its website about "The
Bible on Kindness".
The large-print headings "KINDNESS" on the assignments would be
readable in a magazine or website reproduction, the large drawing
underneath the headings perhaps recognizable, the smaller print below
the pictures not at all.
Marianne Shaw strolled over. She noted that the kindness assignments
omitted students' names and therefore felt that taking the two photos
is OK, but said I should ask the Principal regarding publishing them,
which I agreed to do.
She enquired what the website is about. I told her that people debate
various topics and that the Bible and Christianity have been defended
for over 20 years.
Open Day finished and people were leaving.
Suddenly Assistant Principal Mrs Shaw popped up again.
She now wanted the two photos deleted immediately, and advised that
permission from the Headmaster to use them to illustrate kindness could
be sought afterwards. Of course if the photos were deleted there would
be nothing to ask permission for, but Mrs Shaw was insistent.
What are the legalities?
Mentally I recalled an occasion years ago when
people wanted me to hand over photos of them in my possession. Legal
advice obtained at the time was that the negatives and the prints
belonged to me, not to the people photographed. Analogy with that
previous advice implied that the two pictures I took belong to me and
the request to delete could be ignored. College control would be
retained by refusing permission to publish them.
A complicating factor is when photos are taken on private property. An information sheet on photography says:
In order to access a privately owned space you need permission from the
landowner, and he or she has the right to impose restrictions on
photography. Therefore, you may only be allowed to photograph certain
objects or locations. This type of restriction is common in many
museums, galleries and sporting grounds, and may occur on land owned by
Councils. Even where the landowner allows you to photograph, keep in
mind that he or she may not be the copyright owner in artistic works
you might be photographing. In this case, you need the permission of
the author of the artwork as well...
Educational institutions ... are
considered to be private property...
I had never at other schools encountered objections to taking
photographs. But I had also never before photographed the word
"Kindness". Perhaps the nearest equivalent is photos taken at a school
reunion, including names of "old scholars" engraved on paving stones.
The answer to my opening question gets murkier if we also consider
copyright and whether parental consent, not merely Headmaster consent,
would be necessary.
Due to the legal uncertainties, and because MCC is a Christian school
and the Christian Bible advocates peaceful relationships (James
3:17-18; Psalm 34:14), I decided to delete.
The College would miss an opportunity to help advocate kindness. But it
promotes kindness in other ways, by raising funds for overseas
missions, and running a Christmas Gift Appeal.
Deletion involves a number of steps which I can never remember. But
after I started, Mrs Shaw worked out the rest and kindly completed the