Confused about model release

Started 4 months ago | Questions thread
Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 14,389
Re: Confused about model release

The laws on model releases vary by state. Generally, they require permission in order to use someone’s likeness to promote goods and/or services.

You may also need a release if the usage paints the model in a false light.

“Making money” from a photo doesn’t really make a difference here.

Suppose I take a photo of a man sitting on a bench in a local park.

I probably don’t need a release to sell a fine art print of that photo, even if I am charging thousands of dollars.

I don’t need a release in order to license the image to a newspaper, but they may need a release depending on how it is used.

For instance no release is needed if the newspaper runs the photo along with a story on how the city is planning to replace the park benches. However, a release would be needed to run that same image in that same newspaper in an add for the company selling the park benches.

Some editorial uses do require a release. For instance, a release would be needed to use that image in a story about child predators hanging out in our parks. The reason is that it paints the person in a false light by implying that he is a child predator (of course, if he was a child predator, then you don’t need the release).

There are specific rules that vary by state. Some states don’t require a release if the person’s appearance is incidental (such as appearing in a crowd).

Typically, a photographer is interested in getting an “assignable” release. This allows the rights granted by the release to be passed along to whomever licenses the photo.

Many public events require attendees to grant condition to use their likeness as a condition of entry.  Such permission is usually assignable, so the venue could extend that permission to others.

The above is a description of the general case, the specifics of a particular situation could require a different result. The laws also vary by state. Some states recognize implied consent, while some states require written consent.  This is not legal advice, and you should not rely on legal advice from the web.  For reliable legal advice talk to a local attorney that specializes in the field.

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