Documentary Consent | Can I Sue?

by Anonymous

A German or French documentary was filmed in Israel and broadcast in France or Germany and I was filmed purchasing goods at a grocery store in Jerusalem with a girl.

Only today, 6 months later, did someone bring this to my attention since I had no idea that filming was going on in the store. Seeing me with the girl I was with can do me great harm in my relationship. (I have 5 kids). Can I sue them?

Desktop Documentaries | Answer

Yikes, this is a touchy situation for sure! As a documentary filmmaker myself I hate to encourage you to sue one of my fellow colleagues, but it does seem that you might have a case.

Please understand I am not a lawyer so anything I say has absolutely no basis in legal training. I highly encourage you to get advice from a lawyer.

Below are some recommendations for lawyers in the US, but keep in mind there might be different laws in different countries. so it's probably best to get a lawyer in the country where the broadcaster is located (Germany or France).

Legal Resources

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts: www.vlany.org

Avvo: Avvo.com

Attorney Jaia Thomas: www.jathomaslaw.com

What I can tell you is that before my documentary was broadcast on television, we had to purchase something called E&O insurance (Errors and Omissions) which would have protected us in case someone sued us.

I have to ask. Wouldn't suing bring even more attention to your situation?

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Comments for Documentary Consent | Can I Sue?

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Apr 14, 2014
risk vs risk
by: Anonymous

Yes, it might do more harm but I am willing to take the risk since it would be a suit in a different country. Also, I can't risk the footage being in the hands of the videographer where maybe one day he'll decide to sell it as stock footage. I myself am a videographer and editor for the past 10 years and I can't stand the fact that this was used. They should have blurred the faces.

Apr 14, 2014
by: Desktop Documentaries

Desktop Documentaries reached out to US entertainment/sports lawyer Jaia Thomas with your question and she graciously agreed to help. Here's what she has to say about your case:

Yes, you may have a cause of action against the filmmakers/producers. Ordinarily, a filmmaker must obtain consent prior to filming an individual. However, there are several exceptions to this rule.

Firstly, the store you entered may have had a release notice posted on the door indicating that any and all patrons run the risk of being filmed upon entrance (For example, “By entering this space, you are granting permission for your likeness to be included in the project”). There is a chance you may have inadvertently overlooked the sign and waived all of your rights upon entering the store.

Secondly, your appearance in the film may constitute ‘Fair Use,’ exempting the filmmakers from having to obtain consent.

In the event the film falls outside the scope of these exceptions, you may have a claim for defamation or invasion of privacy. To prevail on a defamation or an invasion of privacy claim you would likely have to prove actual damages (e.g. you got fired from your job, your wife divorced you, etc). Unless you’ve suffered actual damages it may be difficult to prevail in a lawsuit.

Please keep in mind that as a US-based attorney, many of the principles I am outlining pertain to US law. You would likely need to consult a French, German and Israel attorney to verify that these principles are also applicable in those respective countries.

About: Jaia Thomas is a bi-coastal sports and entertainment attorney. She is a graduate of Colgate University (BA) and The George Washington University Law School (JD). She also holds a Certificate in Television, Film and New Media Production from University of California, Los Angeles. For more information:

www.jathomaslaw.com or @jaiathomaslaw.

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