Privacy, Image Permissions and Copyright Concerns

At EMU, we use photography and video in our endeavor to connect and share with others. However, taking photos and video can raise questions about individual privacy. EMU staff photographers and marketing staff value the beliefs of others and extend respect to those who do not wish to have their image used in EMU materials.

Our photographers and staff generally seek written permission for photos or videos of children in any context and patients in medical settings, as well as individuals featured in marketing materials that imply personal endorsement of the university. When an individual asks not to be photographed, university photographers comply.

Understanding FERPA and Privacy Concerns

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 is a federal law aimed at protecting the privacy of student education records. FERPA provides students the right to review, amend and limit the disclosure of their education records. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the privacy and accuracy of students’ education records. FERPA applies to educational institutions that receive funding from any program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

The EMU marketing office provides a guide to FERPA. Additional FERPA guidelines and processes for complaints are available in the annual student handbook. More information on FERPA is also available on the U.S. Department of Education website.

Campus events and public spaces

It is generally the case that photographers do not require releases or permissions to use photos and video shot during campus events and in public spaces. In such settings, potential subjects have minimal expectations of privacy. Photos and video taken in these settings often include portraits of speakers and presenters, crowds at athletic events, chapel services, and institutional events such as Homecoming and Family Weekend and annual commencement.


In many situations, photographers should obtain permission from subjects so as not to infringe upon individual privacy. There are many approaches to obtaining permission from potential subjects, and the best choice often varies with the situation. A photographer may choose to do any of the following:

  • Request a written signature via EMU’s image release form
  • Announce to those nearby that they may be filmed or photographed for a specific cause
  • Post a sign indicating the above
  • Receive verbal consent

Commercial Use

It is best to receive written permission to take photos and video that will be used for commercial use. In general, this applies to situations where an image of an individual is to be used in order to market or to sell a product.

Children and Special Cases

If the focus of a work is one or several children, and especially if the work is to be widely published, it is essential to obtain a written release from the children’s parents.

Similar caution is to be taken while taking photos and video in sensitive contexts. Examples include situations relating to substance abuse, health concerns, and identity issues. In such situations, photographers should announce their presence and provide a space for those who do not wish to be photographed.

Student Opt-Out

EMU students can opt out of providing general photo permission during the registration process each semester.

Opting out is best done before-hand. If a student decides at a later date to rescind photo permissions, he or she should provide specific URLs to EMU marketing staff, who will attempt to remove related photos from the website within 120 days.

Students who do not want their image used in marketing materials share responsibility with EMU to make sure that their image is not used. If the student sees a staff photographer taking photographs, the student should feel empowered to notify the photographer or move to a place where photographs/video are not being made. Students who do not want their image used should also remove themselves from EMU marketing group photos.

EMU marketing staff acknowledge the original owner of the image or work publicly on the website or in print pieces whenever possible, usually by incorporating a credit or courtesy caption such as “Photo courtesy of …”.

Staff members advise others within the institution to always seek the permission of the original owner of an image, song, video, etc. before utilizing it in any promotional materials.

Questions and Concerns?

Questions and concerns about image permission and copyright guidelines should contact Lindsey Kolb, EMU marketing media specialist, at or 540-432-4634.