I was taught long ago that responsibility, accountability and authority (RAA) are inextricably linked. If I accept responsibility, I therefore must be willing to be held accountable for that responsibility, but only to the extent for which I hold authority. As a photographer, I have RAA until my image is passed into the hands of someone other than my own. I may be able to retain some authority over the use of my image through a licensing arrangement, but I will never have any authority over a viewer’s interpretation of my work.
When I have a camera in my hand I am responsible for what or whom, and how I choose to photograph. I believe I have the responsibility to photograph them honestly, hopefully always objectively, and that I am responsible for their well being in as much as possible during the photograph and after. As such, I try to not to take images that are embarrassing or demeaning, or in any way make my subject intentionally uncomfortable. When photographing wildlife, I interpret their tolerance of my presence as consent and an indication they are not disturbed or distressed. If the species is rare or endangered, I have a responsibility to protect that location so it cannot be exploited. I am fully accountable to my subjects for my actions, including which images I choose to publish and where I choose to publish. When granting rights for use of my images, I will take steps to limit, where appropriate and possible, the uses of those images, fully recognizing this is an increasing difficult proposition.
I would like to hope that a publisher would be to an extent responsible to me and my intentions. I realize in this day and age that is probably a naïve perspective, but I hold hope that there are still many ethical people and organizations in the world.