Altered Images Must Come With Warning Under New French Law

Altered images of models are commonplace in the fashion industry today, but that may change under a new French law.

France passed a law that went into effect on Oct. 1 requiring any image of a model that has been digitally altered for commercial purposes to come with a warning that it has been touched up.

The French Ministry of Health hopes the move will discourage people from imitating unrealistically thin images that have been touched up artificially.

The law requires digitally edited images to be clearly labeled “photographie retouchée,” or touched-up photograph. Any publisher who fails to use the label could be fined up to 37,500 euros [$44,000] or 30 percent of the cost of creating the advertisement.

A French law that requires models to provide a doctor’s note affirming their health, particularly their body mass index (BMI), came into effect in May 2017. (PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)

The label is required when “the body of a model has been modified by an image-editing software to either slim or flesh out her figure,” the French Ministry of Health said in a statement earlier this year.

It is estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 people suffer from anorexia in France.

In May, a law came into effect in France banning extremely thin models. It requires models to provide a doctor’s note affirming their health, particularly their body mass index (BMI), that measures weight in relation to height.

A BMI of less than 18.5 means someone is unhealthily thin, according to the World Health Organization.

“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour,” said Marisol Touraine, France’s minister of social affairs and health, according to reports.

Following the new law, American photography agency Getty Images informed contributors via email that they are banning any images in which the subject’s body shape has been photoshopped to “make them look thinner or larger.”


The email, sent with the subject line “RE: Important Information on Retouched Images — Legal Update,” states: “Effective October 1, 2017, a new French law obliges clients who use commercial images in France to disclose whether the body shape of a model has been retouched to make them look thinner or larger.”

It continues: “As a result, also effective October 1st, we have amended our Creative Stills Submission Requirements to require that you do not submit to us any creative content depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger.

“Please note that other changes made to models, like a change of hair color, nose shape, retouching of skin or blemishes, etc., are outside the scope of this new law, and are therefore still acceptable.”

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