Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Ask SPLC.”
Q: Can we (student media staff) create an online directory of alumni that includes their photos and graduation dates?
A: You can certainly create a directory that includes the names and graduation dates of former students. No special permission is required. Whether or not you can publish their photos can be more complicated and depends on the source and copyright status of the photo. For example, if your plan is to re-use their official “senior photo,” you’ll need to make sure you have the permission of the photographer.
In the past, it was common practice for school photographers to allow (or license) their photos to be used once in the school yearbook but to retain their license for any other use of the photo. That is, if Mom and Dad (or anyone else — including you) wanted to get a copy of the photo, they had to pay for it — or at least obtain explicit permission. Fortunately, in the digital age, many professional school photographers are loosening their licensing practices, but not all are, so you’ll still need to do your research.
Legal questions should be directed toward SPLC’s legal hotline. Ask SPLC questions will be selected based on trends in the legal hotline. The legal hotline is confidential and no identifying information will be used in the Ask SPLC segment.