Ask a Lawyer: Not Ready For My Close-up!

Question: Do people have the right to A. take pictures without my knowing B. to post them on social media sites and C. to bully/make fun of me?

Answer: This is a difficult and, as you know, sensitive issue. The increasing use of social media tools is making it easier to capture forever moments that many of us would prefer to forget. Technology has also made it easier for these images to be edited, completely changed, shared, and used by those who would torment others. In a word, bullies.

A) We live in a free society, so people can take pictures of you while you are in public. They obviously cannot take hidden pictures of you in lured or private moments as you have a legitimate expectation of privacy, however in public places it is OK.

B) There is no law which prevent people from posting pictures without consent. If a business is using you image for profit, there are some protections, but simply posting a picture… again, we live in a free society. The Social Media Site may regulate the issue privately, and that site may allow you to complain and they will take the pictures off. But that is a private matter determined by their own policy.

C) North Carolina does have very specific criminal statutes which make bullying a crime. Specifically § 115C‑407.15 deals with Bullying and harassing behavior, and § 14-458.1 deals with Cyber-bullying. Both of these statutes are geared at protecting minors, and generally do not apply to adults who claim to be victims of bullying.

If you are an adult, you need to develop thick skin and learn to deal with people who behave this way because unfortunately they don’t seem to be going anywhere. However, if you are a minor (while you still need to learn to deal with the problem), you can report the problem and ask the School Resource Officer to investigate. This is not intended to make light of the problem by saying you need to develop thick skin, but the Law can only get involved in prosecuting crimes after they have happened. Thus even if the case is prosecuted, you will still have to deal with the fall out.

Bullying, whether in person or cyber-bullying, is a serious issue. There can be fallout, as you are aware, and the emotional toll can be devastating. If you are being bullied, you should seek counselling to deal with the obvious pain it must be causing you.

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