You and your parents may find it helpful to review the Legal Guide I have published on Avvo.com which deals with defamation and what it is. If your 14 year old sister was in a public place and the paper took her picture, I do not think that they need any kind of permission to publish. We have a free press guaranteed under the First Amendment. However, the press cannot liable you. If, after reading the defamation Legal Guide, you believe you have a viable claim or claims, contact a personal injury attorney in your area.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
Your sister was in a public place when the photo was taken, so there was no expectation of privacy. If there were untrue facts posted in the newspaper, write the editor and ask for a retraction.
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While the newspapers and other media sources do enjoy freedom of the press protections guaranteed by our constitution, there are limits to which that freedom (and liability avoidance) extend. Newspapers are not allowed to publish stories about non-public figures (such as applicable here) if not true. The fact that your sister is 14 and "untrue things" about your mother and yourself are involved is significant but more information is needed. How and from where the newspaper obtained the photo is also an important fact as discussed by the others who posted responses. You should contact a lawyer with all these facts in hand very soon.
The information supplied is not to be considered legal advice. I am licensed to practice law in Illinois and in Missouri. (618)692-0011
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