Tort Law

If you live in a glass house, you may not win a privacy suit over a photo display, lawyer says


Residents of an upscale apartment building in New York City are in an uproar over a photo display at an art gallery.

On exhibit are candid shots of residents taken with a telephoto lens by an artist who lives in a building across the street. Those in the Zinc Building essentially agreed to be photographed, says Arne Svenson, because they live in units with floor-to-ceiling windows, USA Today reports.

“For my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high,” Svenson says in notes accompanying his exhibit. “The neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs.”

Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel said those photographed may have a cause of action, but said it will depend on the facts and circumstances of each photograph, the Associated Press reports.

“The question for the person who’s suing is, if you’re not identifiable, then where’s the loss of privacy?” he said. “These issues are a sign of the times. How do you balance the right of privacy vis-à-vis the right of artistic expression?”

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