It seems there is a right to publicly share photographs of people
taken without their permission, if the photographs are taken in public
This is a significant oversimplification. Not all public sharing of photographs taken without the permission of the person whose photograph is taken are subject to the right of publicity in Washington State.
Generally speaking, only advertising type uses for monetary gain are covered and there are many exceptions to the general rule.
The right of publicity in Washington State is most similar to a registered trademark right.
if the photographs are taken in public places. Would that right apply
to a church setting?
The place that the photograph is taken doesn't matter under Washington State Law (and it need not be a photograph). The critical factor is how the photograph or other distinguishing feature of a person is used.
Washington does not recognize a common law right of publicity
and instead addresses right of publicity through its explicit right
of publicity statute which was created effective June 11, 1998. See Joplin Enters. v. Allen, 795 F. Supp. 349, 351 (W.D. Wash. 1992). Washington State recognizes a statutory right of publicity. Wash. Rev. Code § 63.60.010-080 (2012). The sections of the statute are as follows:
63.60.010 Property right—Use of name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness.
63.60.030 Transfer, assignment, and license.
63.60.040 Right is exclusive for individuals and personalities.
63.60.050 Infringement of right—Use without consent—Profit or not for profit.
63.60.060 Infringement of right—Superior courts—Injunctions—Liability for damages and profits—Impoundment—Destruction—Attorneys' fees.
63.60.070 Exemptions from use restrictions—When chapter does not apply.
63.60.080 Community property rights.
Some of the key language is as follows (emphasis added):
Every individual or personality has a property right in the use of his
or her name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness. . . .
The right exists whether or not it was commercially exploited by the
individual or the personality during the individual's or the
Any person who uses or authorizes the use of a living or deceased
individual's or personality's name, voice, signature, photograph, or
likeness, on or in goods, merchandise, or products entered into
commerce in this state, or for purposes of advertising products,
merchandise, goods, or services, or for purposes of fund-raising or
solicitation of donations, or if any person disseminates or publishes
such advertisements in this state, without written or oral, express
or implied consent of the owner of the right, has infringed such
right. An infringement may occur under this section without regard
to whether the use or activity is for profit or not for profit.
(1) For purposes of RCW 63.60.050, the use of a name, voice,
signature, photograph, or likeness in connection with matters of
cultural, historical, political, religious, educational, newsworthy,
or public interest, including, without limitation, comment, criticism,
satire, and parody relating thereto, shall not constitute a use for
which consent is required under this chapter. A matter exempt from
consent under this subsection does not lose such exempt status because
it appears in the form of a paid advertisement if it is clear that the
principal purpose of the advertisement is to comment on such matter.
(2) This chapter does not apply to the use or authorization of use of
an individual's or personality's name, voice, signature, photograph,
or likeness, in any of the following:
(a) Single and original works of fine art, including but not limited
to photographic, graphic, and sculptural works of art that are not
published in more than five copies;
(b) A literary work, theatrical work, musical composition, film,
radio, online or television program, magazine article, news story,
public affairs report, or sports broadcast or account, or with any
political campaign when the use does not inaccurately claim or state
an endorsement by the individual or personality;
(c) An advertisement or commercial announcement for a use permitted by
subsections (1) and (7) of this section and (a) or (b) of this
(d) An advertisement, commercial announcement, or packaging for the
authorized sale, distribution, performance, broadcast, or display of a
literary, musical, cinematographic, or other artistic work using the
name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness of the writer, author,
composer, director, actor, or artist who created the work, where such
individual or personality consented to the use of his or her name,
voice, signature, photograph, or likeness on or in connection with the
initial sale, distribution, performance, or display thereof; and
(e) The advertisement or sale of a rare or fine product, including but
not limited to books, which incorporates the signature of the author.
(3) It is no defense to an infringement action under this chapter that
the use of an individual's or personality's name, voice, signature,
photograph, or likeness includes more than one individual or
personality so identifiable. However, the individuals or personalities
complaining of the use shall not bring their cause of action as a
(4) RCW 63.60.050 does not apply to the owners or employees of any
medium used for advertising, including but not limited to, newspapers,
magazines, radio and television stations, online service providers,
billboards, and transit ads, who have published or disseminated any
advertisement or solicitation in violation of this chapter, unless the
advertisement or solicitation was intended to promote the medium
(5) This chapter does not apply to a use or authorization of use of an
individual's or personality's name that is merely descriptive and used
fairly and in good faith only to identify or describe something other
than the individual or personality, such as, without limitation, to
describe or identify a place, a legacy, a style, a theory, an
ownership interest, or a party to a transaction or to accurately
describe the goods or services of a party.
(6) This chapter does not apply to the use of an individual's or
personality's name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness when the
use of the individual's or personality's name, voice, signature,
photograph, or likeness is an insignificant, de minimis, or incidental
(7) This chapter does not apply to the distribution, promotion,
transfer, or license of a photograph or other material containing an
individual's or personality's name, voice, signature, photograph, or
likeness to a third party for use in a manner which is lawful under
this chapter, or to a third party for further distribution, promotion,
transfer, or license for use in a manner which is lawful under this
The statutory remedies are broader than the common law right which is limited to a common law tort for money damages, since it allows for injunctive relief, destruction of offending works, penalties that are not compensatory in nature, and attorney fee awards.
(1) The superior courts of this state may grant injunctions on
reasonable terms to prevent or restrain the unauthorized use of the
rights in a living or deceased individual's or personality's name,
voice, signature, photograph, or likeness.
(2) Any person who infringes the rights under this chapter shall be
liable for the greater of one thousand five hundred dollars or the
actual damages sustained as a result of the infringement, and any
profits that are attributable to the infringement and not taken into
account when calculating actual damages. To prove profits under this
section, the injured party or parties must submit proof of gross
revenues attributable to the infringement, and the infringing party is
required to prove his or her deductible expenses. For the purposes of
computing statutory damages, use of a name, voice, signature,
photograph, and/or likeness in or related to one work constitutes a
single act of infringement regardless of the number of copies made or
the number of times the name, voice, signature, photograph, or
likeness is displayed.
(3) At any time while an action under this chapter is pending, the
court may order the impounding, on reasonable terms, of all materials
or any part thereof claimed to have been made or used in violation of
the injured party's rights, and the court may enjoin the use of all
plates, molds, matrices, masters, tapes, film negatives, or other
articles by means of which such materials may be reproduced.
(4) As part of a final judgment or decree, the court may order the
destruction or other reasonable disposition of all materials found to
have been made or used in violation of the injured party's rights, and
of all plates, molds, matrices, masters, tapes, film negatives, or
other articles by means of which such materials may be reproduced.
(5) The prevailing party may recover reasonable attorneys' fees,
expenses, and court costs incurred in recovering any remedy or
defending any claim brought under this section.
(6) The remedies provided for in this section are cumulative and are
in addition to any others provided for by law.