June 2, 2006

Polar Bear nude pics make appearance on the Web

Apparently nerds’ naked bodies are in high demand.

Cell-phone cameras, an insatiable hunger for cheap thrills, and loose property rights have exposed streakers at Princeton’s Nude Olympics, Harvard’s Primal Scream, and the Polar Bear run at the University of Chicago.

In the months following the 2006 Polar Bear, images from the event surfaced on several adult websites, raising questions about property infringement, student consent, and the University’s protection of individual participants. Complicating these issues is the website at the center of the debate., a repository of nudist photography, offers prize money for the best photos.

The quadrangle area where the run occurs is University of Chicago property and typically off-limits to parties unaffiliated with the University. The relationship between photographers and the student participants remains unclear.

Bill Michel, assistant vice president for student life, said that despite the fact that he “cannot give a clear legal answer” about the public or private nature of the event, “any concerns…with how those photos are used would be between the students in the photos, the people who are using them, and the photographers involved.”

Michel said he “hoped that students would consider these issues as they decide for themselves about how they want to participate in the Polar Bear run.”

Robert Rush of the University’s Office of Legal Counsel echoed Michel’s views, stating that “if a student’s rights were violated by the posting of his or her image on a website, it would be the student, rather than the University, who would have a claim against whomever he or she felt were violating his or her rights.”

He added that the University does not “generally prevent members of the public from entering or passing through the quadrangle” as a matter of policy.

However, both Arizona State University and the New York Institute of Photography hold that the use of photographs for marketing or commercial purposes is contingent upon written model releases, and minors may not be photographed without parental consent.

Arizona’s policy states that any “student, faculty member, staff person or member of the public” must be issued a consent form after being photographed, and although the policy is impossible to enforce, it addresses important issues facing younger generations of students.