In most countries, photographers can take pictures in public and use them as they would like. Not so in Korea. While our photo-taking comrades abroad can enjoy ownership of the pictures they take, our photographer friends residing in Korea are subject to the Korean “Right to Face,” or “초상권.”
The “Right to Face,” also called “Personality Rights” in some instances, can be broken down into two categories, both of which concern an individual’s right to protect their image with mostly a disregard of location or circumstance.
The first of these two categories is the “Right to Privacy,” or “프라이버시권.” This aspect of the law involves the discernibility of the individual in the photographs. That is, could you identify the individual photographed? Are these individual’s features clearly on display in the photo, making them easily identifiable? The second is the “Right of Publicity,” or “퍼블리시티권,” which is more of a concern for those of celebrity status, as it concerns the lawful use of the photo. In this instance, it is about a right to property and whether the photographed individual’s image is being used in an authorized or licensed way.
The everyday person is more likely to be at risk of the first of these two, as these laws apply to the production of pictures even within the boundaries of public areas. Even in instances of photos taken in public spaces, if the photographer does not have the express permission of those who appear in the picture, these photographed individuals can contact authorities or press charges against the photographer under the pretense that their right to privacy is being violated. The only reason we don’t hear about more of these kinds of cases is because photographed individuals tend to unaware or aware, but not bothered.
While authorities still don’t have the right to cameras or other equipment, other’s individual rights to privacy and publicity can put the everyday street photographer into quite the predicament. So, before you land in some legal trouble, think twice before you take that photo!