What is model release form and when is it relevant?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by fug.li, Sep 7, 2008.

  1. fug.li
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    fug.li New Member

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    Hello,

    I was watching a video a while back and the instructor mentioned about the model release form and that one should get it signed by the people in our photographs. There was no other information given.

    I have a few questions.

    1. Does this apply only to the photographs one intends to sell or for just about any image one wants to upload online to, say, a photo gallery? In other words, is this a consent form for 'no royalties' or for 'okay to display me in public'?

    2. Is this applicable to all countries or just to US?

    3. Is this a form you purchase or something you can just download a copy of and print at your computer? Either ways, can you give me some more information about it?

    4. What if the model is a child? What is the age cut-off till which you have to get parent's signature?

    Thanks!
    Stanley.
  2. William Petruzzo
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    William Petruzzo New Member

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    Okay, first of all, there can be some good advice on this forum, but if you're getting into legal questions and it's important you get the right answer, then a legal specialist is who you need to talk to. But we can still offer a few cents. Just make sure you take it with a grain of salt.

    It can be a little different depending where you are. I'm pretty sure technically you always need them.

    Probably all over the place. Definitely the US.

    It's just a contract stating the person being photographed has given you permission to do so. You can usually find samples for free online.

    18. Before that parents need to sign a release.
  3. Alpha
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    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    They're good to have even if you don't think you need them...you never know.

    As for shooting minors, for portraits a standard release is good. For modeling work under 18 I insist that the parents have the model release notarized.
  4. fug.li
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    fug.li New Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I guess I will look for a model form to use as a starting point.

    Just one clarification though, if somebody is familiar with general state laws. If we need model release forms for pretty much everything, how do paparazzi get away with pretty much all their work? Or, better still, pretty much every press photograph? They even earn money for the shots. Just confused. Thanks! :)
  5. William Petruzzo
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    William Petruzzo New Member

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    Good question. I've wondered similar things myself.
  6. Joves
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    Joves New Member

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    If it is shot in the general public then I dont get a release form. But if it is shoot with an individual then always.
  7. John_Olexa
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    John_Olexa Active Member

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    Generally,
    For editorial usage you do not need permission from your subjects. It doesn't matter whether they are famous or not. But I have seen that start to change.
    For commercial usage(e.g. in advertising) you DO need Permission, regardless of the celebrity status.
  8. NateWagner
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    NateWagner New Member

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    ^^^ yep...

    If you're just out and about you're free to take photos of whatever you would like. The model release really only comes into play when you're commercially trying to make money from it etc.

    Thus, for example if you were shooting a wedding, you would generally get a model release from the bride and groom, but all the other guests at the wedding you wouldn't bother with the release. You could easily have those photos of other people but you really wouldn't use them for commercial uses (like advertising your company etc.)

    At least that's the way I understand this subject.
  9. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    I find it ironic that the dude warning you to get legal advice is the one the furthest off from accurate. :lol: Sorry, bpetruzzo... :lol:

    No, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV...

    As alpha said... it certainly can't hurt, but if you're out shooting in the city or something and run up to the 10-20 people in each image you take trying to get model releases yer gonna go mad, get shot, or worse.

    In summary, you can take pictures of anyone at anytime as long as they have no reasonable expectation to privacy. For example, shooting pictures of every single soul that walks by on Commonwealth Ave in Boston? Perfectly acceptable. Hanging from a tree in your neighbors yard to get shots of them watching McGuyver in their living room? Not acceptable. In the latter case, they have every reasonable expectation that they are in a private situation.

    You can use photos of people all you like (barring the peeping tom thing), but once there is some kind of commercial activity involved you need a model release, and this is where it gets muddy... what is commercial activity?

    For example, I take pictures in office buildings and hotels. Sometimes in a Hotel they like to have the people behind the desk in the shot. I am getting paid for my services, but the pay is coming from the real estate firm, who is being paid BY the hotel (who also employs the person behind the desk) to take the shot... do I need a model release if they are the employee of the primary contractor???? I JUST DON'T KNOW! :) So, I either get a model release or I fuzz out their faces. :)

    There have been a variety of precedents in this space about using people's pictures for art, journalism, etc. Generally speaking, it's pretty much allowable, but you do want to be aware of the laws governing your area and your situation.

    Here are some handy dandy links:

    Legal Issues:
  10. William Petruzzo
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    William Petruzzo New Member

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    Alright, well, in my defense, my shooting is almost never in the street and almost always commercial to some degree. I stand corrected :). but I'll still hold that if the possibility of being sued exists (which it does), then I wouldn't test the waters relying on advice from a forum. I wouldn't want my business getting swept clean because I misunderstood something. Then, not again everyone's running a business.[​IMG]
  11. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    No, but you still have things you'd rather not lose, and lawsuits aren't reserved to people with businesses... sadly. So, yeah, I agree. Err on the side of caution when practical and possible... and don't listen to a bunch of forum yahoos without double-checking with someone who gets paid to do that thar law stuff. :lol:
  12. fug.li
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    fug.li New Member

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    Well, I just asked here hoping someone would have already gotten their clarification from a legal attorney since where I am in presently, I highly doubt the court have seen such cases in years. ;)
  13. ShootMe
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    ShootMe New Member

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    What if they are under 18 and in a public place with no reasonable expectation of privacy?
  14. Dao
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    Dao Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes, in a photo contest, they do want a release form.


    Quoted from the Official English Language National Geographic
    International Photography Contest Rules
    .


    "If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photograph in the manner set forth in these Official Rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any photograph is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release."
  15. bigtwinky
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    bigtwinky Well-Known Member

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    If you plan on doing any type of stock photography, they will require a model release for anyone that is recognizable in the picture...unless its of editorial value.

    You see a face, a noticable shape? Need a release.

    On a similar topic, some buildings were releases as well if you are taking pictures of them and hope to use it somehow.

    I know the Eiffel Tower at night requires a building release, however if you take your pictures during the day, no release is needed. I believe it has to do with the copyrights of the company who did the lighting arrangement.

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