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Do I need a model release?

Nancy Vuu Designs First let me say, contrary to what you hear or read, as also the 'Society of American Photographers' will have general blanket statement that when followed will always protect you. And you will not try and sue them if something goes wrong.

Just like I always tell photographers, get a model release, if you do, you are always in the clear. It is one of those rules that when followed, you will be good. Just like, always press save before you close a file. Not always needed, but a good practice.

At the risk of over-simplification,

The only time a release is needed is if a person can be seen as supporting or advocating an idea, product or service. True, there are often disputes about whether a given publication of a photo of someone could be construed in such a way, but the dispute gets closer into the safety zone when that publication is a form of artistic expression.

Please, check your local laws when in doubt.

Truth #1: You do not need a model release to take pictures.
Retro Motorcycle

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Everyone in the world has a camera on their phone, and photos are taken constantly. You don't need someone's permission to take their pictures. A friend told me about a photographer who was bullied into paying an agency because their was no release and they had a contract with the model. -- Don't fall for this BS

Truth #2: Photographers do not need releases for photos in their portfolio.

A portfolio is a collection of artistic works that demonstrate the skills and talents of the photographer. Permission is not required in order to use photos of people in a portfolio. This includes all forms of publication of the portfolio, whether in physical form, or as a website, or other media.

The one thing to be aware of, however, is that sometimes photographers take pictures of people in special, 'closed sessions' where an agreement was made ahead of time—before the photo was taken. If a subject posed for a photographer with the pre-arranged agreement that the photos would not be used in a portfolio or any other manner, than that agreement takes precedent. (Of course, a new agreement, such as a model release, can supersede it.)

Truth #3: Posting photos online is just another form of publishing.
Makeup Artist - LAFW What determines the need for a release is whether a photo makes someone appear to support, advocate or promote ideas, products or services. The medium itself is irrelevant, whether it's traditional physical media, or online/electronic media. One cannot say whether a release is required for photos 'posted on the web' because it depends on the way the photo depicts the person in it.

When photographers put images on their professional website, they think that this suggests that the people in those photos could be construed as sponsors or advocates, but that's not complete. Putting photos online to 'sell' does not require a release, depictions of 'art' do not require a release, and a 'portfolio' does not require a release.

The only way a photo would require a release is if the photographer created a self-promotional piece (such as an ad) that promoted his or her services, and used a photo of someone that might suggest it is a client.

Truth #4: No release is required to sell pictures.

Don't be fooled, 'Profit' has no bearing on whether a release is required.

First, newspapers buy photos, and their use of the photo is for editorial use, and do not need a release. So, selling a photo (and making a profit doing so) to a newspaper also does not require a release. And because the law does not require you to have any knowledge of the buyer or their intended use of a photo, you are always allowed to sell photos without a release.

Truth #5: You do not need a model release to make photos available for sale.

It is true, either on your own website, or through a stock agency. If one can sell a photo without a release, one must also be able to 'make photos available for sale' without a release. This includes the publication of such photos in a manner that would allow potential buyers to find them.

The legal case that established precedent for this was Corbis vs. James Brown, where the judge called the depiction of a photo as being for sale a 'vehicle of information'. Here, consent from a subject is not required.

Therefore, one can make photos available for sale in any manner of publication and media, whether it's traditional print or online formats, including personal web pages, photo-sharing sites, social media sites, stock photo sites, or mostly anywhere

Truth #6: A 'property release' is NOT required to sell photos of buildings or personal property.
DTLA from the piero The root of this misunderstanding is complicated. The term 'property' in an actual 'property release' refers to two particular forms of intellectual property: trademarks and copyrights. Examples include logos, designs and other works.

Now, just because these are 'protected' works, it doesn't mean that one cannot publish photos of them. It only means that the manner in which such works are depicted cannot cause confusion among the general public about who 'owns' the properties, or other legally complex factors. It is impossible for a photo of a bottle of coke to cause the general public to suddenly think that the Coca Cola company was now owned by a freelance photographer in Topeka. If the photographer sold the image to a publisher, and the publisher's use of the image would imply that it had a unique and special business relationship with Coke, then that would trigger a trademark infringement claim. But that would be with the publisher, not the photographer, nor the stock agency that sold the image. Furthermore, such an infringement couldn't possibly happen by merely the photo being printed. Text around the photo would have to give this impression. And, since the photographer or anyone selling such a photo cannot know or control how a publisher uses a photo, they could never be held liable for the infringement.

Truth #7: You usually do not need permission to shoot pictures of (or on) private property.

While it's true that property owners can restrict photography, that's not saying much. It's permitted by default, and to prevent it they must take explicit actions, including (but not necessarily limited to) posting signs. If you are not stopped (or are given reasonable advanced notice), any photos you take are legitimate, and can be sold legitimately. Further, one may not retroactively enforce their restriction. That is, if you were at a private event, and then later told you were not allowed to take pictures, it has no affect on your photos or your ability to sell those images. (Publishers, on the other hand, may need releases if the nature of the publication would require it. But that doesn't affect the photographer's liability.)

Truth #8: No release required for Art, Books, Exhibitions, Presentations, Fairs, Contests, Postcards, Calendars, Etc.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects 'artistic exhibitions' (and publications) as a form of free speech, so consent from anyone else—by definition—is never required. Money or profit has nothing to do with whether a work is published or 'depicted in an artistic manner.'

Again, people argue frequently about whether such depictions are, in fact, artistic in nature, which leads to a complex argument: is it art, and if not, is it a promotion, and if so, is it the type of promotion that should have required consent from the person in the photo?

While these are all good questions, the reality is that no one has ever successfully won the argument that a model release was necessary for a photo that was used in a book, in an art gallery, or at a fair, or any of the items in the above list. In short, the law is on the side of the First Amendment by default - a claimant bears the burden of proving otherwise, and that's a difficult and very expensive bar to clear. While is indeed a very deep and complex subject, those wishing to seek quick answers can feel relaxed: 'don't worry. You're fine.'

Truth #9: Ownership of physical pictures and ownership of rights are different.

When people hire photographers to take pictures of them, they think they own the photos, or have rights to publish them. They don't. This has to be agreed upon, usually ahead of time (but it can be negotiated later.) Normally, this isn't a problem. But where things break down is when subjects don't like the photos of themselves. Here, they try to demand them back, but they don't have this right. (They also cannot retract permission if it's been granted in writing, such as a model release.)

The same thing is true of pictures taken on (or of) people's property. They think that because it's their house, or their private event, or their pet, that they have the rights to the photos. They don't. Nor can they stop the photographer from publishing those photos. Non-humans do not have inherent rights, unless protected by trademark or copyright.

Mike Bradley

Author: Mike Bradley

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