WELLSVILLE — A former Wellsville Central School District employee is facing a misdemeanor charge for allegedly selling photos of students through at least one stock photo agency.
Wellsville police charged Barrie R. Fanton, 79, of Wellsville, on Thursday with official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor. Fanton was issued an appearance ticket and released.
Wellsville Central School District officials confirmed Fanton was a district employee, and said the photographs taken in the school were during work hours without permission.
“The District was recently made aware of one of its now former employees, Barrie Fanton, taking unauthorized photos of students and/or others engaging in school activities during the school or workday, and then selling those photos to at least one other company (as stock photos) for her personal profit,” said district Superintendent David Foster in a statement. “The District is working with law enforcement and its School Attorney regarding a full investigation of this matter. It is our understanding that Ms. Fanton was arrested today. Additional information will be forthcoming, as appropriate, as further details are known.”
The district website identified Fanton as a special education staff member at the middle school on Thursday.
Stock photo agencies license photographs to for-profit and nonprofit groups to illustrate websites, print publications or advertisements without having to hire photographers for individual assignments.
Based on the charge filed and a review of one agency’s website, the photographs did not appear to be of a pornographic nature. A review of several stock photo websites carrying the photographs showed students, faculty and staff at the school during school hours and at special events participating in various activities.
More than 300 such images were available on the website of stock photo agency Age of Stock on Thursday, but some had been removed from purchase later in the day. While students were not named on the website, hundreds of faces were identifiable in images and some were identified in captions as special education students. Other photos by Fanton also appeared previously on the stock photo agency Getty Images, but were taken down on Thursday.
Typically, photographs of people for commercial use — for which the agencies were selling one-time licenses for up to $500 per image — have to have the permission of the subject to be sold, such as a signed model release by a parent or guardian in cases involving a minor.
In addition, photographs taken by government employees during the course of their duties are considered under the state Freedom of Information Law to be public records, and as such are generally not covered by copyright or to be sold for commercial use.