What trouble can you get into in stock photography/video?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 6,802
Re: What trouble can you get into in stock photography/video?

DTPix wrote:

You sign up to a stock/microstock site, upload your pics and videos, and wait for the waves of cash to roll in.

What can go unexpectedly wrong?

You can wait forever.  Few photographers make noticeable money from stock.

As in, I already know about property and model releases.

You may want to join an organization of professional photographers.  Many of these offer educational materials that can guide you in these sorts of situations.

In the USA, you generally don't need a "property" release.   Property does not enjoy the same rights of privacy/publicity that people have.  While the stock agency may require a "property release", this is a policy issue on their part, and not a legal requirement.

With property, the issue is usually trademark or copyright.  You need permission from the trademark owner to use the trademark in certain contexts.  You generally need permission from the copyright owner to reproduce their copyrighted material.

The owner of the object is probably not the copyright/trademark owner.   A typical car owner is not in a position to give you permission to use the BMW logo.  Someone who owns a art print is probably not in a position to give you permission to photograph and reproduce that art.

Perhaps you went to the store and bought a 12-pack of Coca-Cola.  You own that physical 12-pack.  Take that 12-pack home and you can certainly photograph it.  However you don't have the legal authority to grant permission for someone to use photographs of the logo in an unlimited fashion.

Maybe you didn't think one was necessary and it turns out it was and a property owner or subject makes a claim against the client that used your photo or video. I suppose they claim against the stock agency, who turn around and claim against you. Yes?

In the USA, the issue is not that you have taken a photo of someone/something, but how the photo is used.  The claim would be against the person/company that used the entity.

They in turn would allege that the stock agency represented that all needed releases had been obtained.  The agency would then take a similar action against the photographer.

But what else? Anyone have first hand stories?


Generally, in the USA you need someone's permission to use their likeness to promote goods and/or services.  This permission usually takes the form of a "model release".  Get one from your professional association or the stock agency.  Not all releases are created equal.  Even releases that say "any and all purposes" may not be valid for "any and all purposes".  The courts have found that certain uses need to be specifically mentioned (i.e. a use that implies the model has HIV/AIDS).

Other than trademark/copyright issues, you generally do not need permission to use a photo of things or animals.   Having such permission can help, as the owner may think he has the right to control the image, and a release can be an easy way to dissuade him of that idea.

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