Model and Property Releases – the lowdown.

It’s important for stock photography buyers as well as for stock photographers to fully understand model releases and the reason for their use. Here’s a quick review.

What is a model release and when is it required?

A model release is a form of written permission from a person allowing the use of that person's likeness to be used in an image for commercial purposes. The model agrees that they will not receive compensation beyond the consideration the model and photographer agreed to at the signing of the release form, which should be signed by both the photographer and the model. If the model is a child under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian has to sign the model release in their behalf

What is a property release and when is it required?

A property release is a form of written permission from a person allowing the use of a person’s property (for example, a private home, a place of business, a copyrighted work of art or product, or in some cases, an animal) in an image for commercial purposes. Again, the property owner agrees that they will not receive compensation beyond the consideration that he/she and the photographer agreed to at the signing of the release form, which should be signed by both the photographer and the property owner. 

Is a model or property release required for all pictures of a person or a property? 

No. Photographs for editorial or educational use do not require a model or property release. For example, photos that accompany newspaper articles or that appear in textbooks do not require a release. Releases are only required for any recognizable people or property in an image that is made available for commercial use.

What makes a model recognizable? 

Anything in the image that could identify the model would make the subject recognizable. That means that a visible face isn't the only thing that would make a model recognizable. Other examples are birthmarks, tattoos, or unique clothing. Even a model in close-up silhouette or a cropped part of a model’s body may be recognizable. 

What is considered commercial use? 

Commercial use means a use where the intention is to sell a product, promote or endorse something or raise money. Any use that has the aim of making money is commercial use, even if you never actually generate any revenue from the image.Right-to-privacy, right-to-publicity (in the case of celebrities), trademark, and copyright laws require that you have releases if the images are to be used for commercial purposes.

The benefits of using a model or property release.

This is a legally binding document and therefore ensures that clients, image buyers, models, photographers or end users of the image are aware of what has been agreed to and by whom. It is irrevocable and contains clear reference to pornographic and defamation exclusions. It includes definitions for clarity and is designed to relinquish further claims by a model/property owner, including all claims to further payments.

Do I have to write my own release? 

No. Model and property release templates are available online. Click here for a sample.

Disclaimer: This is a general guide to model releases. Local laws may have additional requirements. It is the duty of the stock photographer to ensure that a model release complies with local ordinances.

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