There's a fraud conducting business in my state and I want to create a website that warns others of his fraudulent practices.

On the website, I would like to place a photo of this individual. The photo belongs to me. I was wondering whether there are any limitations on using photos of private individuals on websites.

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    You might find yourself sued for defamation, but if everything you say is true -- and you can prove it in court -- then the suit will not be successful. – phoog Oct 29 '17 at 22:52
  • My post has nothing to do with defamation. – CDM Oct 31 '17 at 18:50
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    That's why I posted my contribution as a comment rather than as an answer. – phoog Oct 31 '17 at 19:18
  • @CDM: Are you 1) putting only the photo of this individual on a website with no other accompanying information? Or, are you 2) putting the photo of this individual on a website with other textual information about the fraudulent practices? – BlueDogRanch Oct 31 '17 at 19:37
  • I agree with the answers by ohwilleke and particularly by BlueDogRanch. Such use of a photo is not inherently illegal (except in circumstances not stated to be present, but it could easily lead to a defamation suit if the person claims (however inaccurately) that the statements are flase and damaging to reputation. Such a suit, even if it is not successful, might go further than one might think, depending on the specific facts of the case. A defamation plaintiff does not have to prove falsity when filing the case, merely to allege it. – David Siegel Jul 16 '19 at 18:30

Neither copyright nor defamation law, in general, prohibit using someone else's photo. The main right to control photographs of yourself pertains to use of someone else's photo (such as a model) for you commercial benefit without the permission of the model.

If no income is generated from the site, this privacy tort would not apply and the general rule of the first amendment that you are free to say what you like, applies.

While content at the site could conceivably be defamatory, the analysis is not changed in any respect merely because someone's picture accompanies the text, assuming, of course, that the picture is of the person you are actually describing and not someone else who is totally innocent and just happens to share the same name. Putting up a picture of the wrong person with these assertions would be defamatory and would probably even be held to a lower negligence standard, rather than the usual reckless disregard for the truth standard, under defamation law.


(Assuming the jurisdiction is the US.)

Your question

I was wondering whether there are any limitations on using photos of private individuals on websites.

is the least of your potential problems. Photos of the public taken in public are mostly legal to use and publish, and you own the copyright on the photo, and generally don't need a model release.

But your plan of posting the photo with accompanying information about (alleged) fraud:

There's a fraud conducting business in my state and I want to create a website that warns others of his fraudulent practices.

is potentially legally problematic.

As phoog indicates in his comment, you need to be aware of defamation, both at the federal level and among states, as some have criminalized defamation (Wikipedia).

Libel is the publication of provably false facts by one person about another person. For a full outline of defamation (libel and slander, and including private and public figures), see Libel and Slander | Nolo.com.

What you want to do is publish "facts" about this alleged fraud on the website with a photo of the individual, linking the fraud allegations to them. That is potentially libelous.

The facts of the fraud may be provably true, or they may be provably false; that remains to be seen. But the facts don't matter when considering what actions the person can take against you if you publish such information on your website.

If this business and the individual(s) feel they are not committing fraud, they can sue you for libel in civil court, alleging that you have damaged their reputation and impacted their business by publishing those facts on your website with the photo identifying the person and their business.

If they take legal action, and you can prove the business and the individual(s) are committing fraud with provable facts - hard evidence of fraud, such as legal documents and court judgments - than you should (no guarantees) be able to successfully defend yourself in a libel suit brought against you by that person.

Even if the business and the individual(s) are aware of facts that prove their fraud, and know they will probably not prevail in court, they can still take you to court, and it will cost you whatever time and money it takes to defend yourself.

My responses above concern what legal actions the alleged could take against you if you published the website with the photo and information about the alleged fraud.

No one here is advising you to put up the website with the photo and the "facts" as you see them, even if you have hard proof of the facts of the fraud; you should find legal representation before taking any action with the website. And, no one here is advising you to open any legal action against the person; that's your choice in terms of determining your case and if you can show actual harm that was caused by the alleged fraud by the individual, and you should find legal representation before taking any action.

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    OK, but realize IANAL; he could still take you to court, so it's your choice to go forward with any actions or the website. – BlueDogRanch Oct 30 '17 at 1:51
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    @CDM Fraud is normally is not easy to prove. You'll need to prove that not only that his degree and references are fake, but also that it makes a material difference given the nature of business that they're fake, that someone actually believed they weren't fake and that person was harmed as a result. – Ross Ridge Oct 30 '17 at 2:03
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    FYI, here is @CDM's earlier question, which appears to be relevant: law.stackexchange.com/questions/17368/… – BlueDogRanch Oct 30 '17 at 2:33
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    One warning to consider is that any law suit will be very expensive to defend even if you are right. It can cost you $10k just to start a defense. So please be wise and start with an attorney and not end with one. Cheers!! – closetnoc Oct 30 '17 at 2:39
  • @CDM: If you just want to spread the word that the individual is a fraudster, consider tipping off news organizations about the fraudulent activities. That way you'll be removed from the loop and won't risk a lawsuit. – James Oct 30 '17 at 12:28

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