This is definitely a confusing, and much-debated issue. The general
consensus appears to be that, while permission should really be
obtained from any recognizable people in the photo, if you are
publishing them on a personal or hobby site -- or for news or
editorial purposes -- you are probably OK. If your Web site is popular
or commercial (even if it only makes money from advertising), you may
have more of a problem.
Public Places = Fair Use
The consensus among most photographers appears to be that by appearing
in a public place, the individuals have implied consent.
According to Dan Heller in his Photography Business Series, "photos
shot in public settings may not require a release is because of a term
called "fair use."
And from "Publication of Photographs: Is A Release Required?" by Lloyd
L. Rich: "Releases are generally not required from people who are
identifiable in a photograph of a street or public place, provided
that the photograph is reasonably related to the subject matter and
the identifiable people are not the focus of the photograph."
In other words, the photos taken in public areas of downtown Chicago
are probably OK to use without consent of the subjects as long as they
aren't used for commercial purposes (in which case a model-release is
a requirement). That doesn't mean this is the right thing to do - that
is a judgement call on your part. Personally, I try to avoid taking
photos with closeups of specific individuals for just this reason.
Photos Containing Children
The ones containing children (i.e. minors) are probably more of a
problem. Parents are understandably protective of their children's
privacy and are more likely to have an issue with the unauthorized use
of their children's likeness. This doesn't mean that you have any less
legal right to publish those photos, just that you may be more likely
to upset the people involved by doing so - especially if the child is
the focus of the photograph.
Public officials, are often considered an exception to the rule. You
can often use a photo of a public figure without a model release,
because their occupation, by implication, overrides some of their
privacy rights. As it says in "Creating Web Graphics for Dummies" by
Wiley Publishing, "you're a lot safer putting a photograph of yourself
shaking hands with the mayor on your Web site than of yourself shaking
hands with a random passerby."
FWIW, many major photo Web sites include a prohibition about uploading
photos containing recognizable people without a written release.
Here's an example
"Uploader acknowledges that they have sufficient written permission of
any recognizable models or other persons appearing in the photograph
to be able to grant to BetterPhoto.com the right to publish their
photographic submission online, and hereby grant to BetterPhoto.com
And here is one last link worth reading:
"The Photographers Right"
Basically, if the photos were taken in a public place (keeping in mind
that restaurants, shopping malls, libraries, etc. are not considered
public) and you use the photos for noncommercial purposes, you are
probably OK to publish the photos. Whether you choose to or not is a
judgement call on your part, and you should be prepared to remove them
if anyone asks. If you want to play it safe in the future, either
avoid taking photos of recognizable people, or get written permission.
I hope this helps to answer your question!