Image Copyrights Law And Releases – Are Model Release And Minor Releases Required For Photos On Your Blog

Hi everyone,

As you know, few days ago I’ve published a post on the subject of copyright infringement of photos on the web, and how to avoid getting sued by photo agencies such as Getty Images (the original post is here).

Now, a good guy named Will Edwards has stumbled upon my post and wrote his own piece about the subject. Not only it makes a good read, which you can find at “Images Copyright and ‘Getty-ing’ Sued” (I LOVE his title!), but also includes some important points that I neglected in my original post – mainly on the subject of model, minor and property releases.

Adult, minor and property releases

First, this is what Will had to say:

“If you were to take a picture of a person and then use that picture commercially, you could be in legal trouble if you did not gain the permission of the subject of the photograph.”

The permission Will is referring to is known as a release. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) explains why you need the subject of your photo to sign a release:

“A release is a written agreement between you and the person you are photographing, or the person who owns the property you are photographing. The purpose of the release is to protect you from any future lawsuits the person might file for claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy.”

(ASMP Property And Model Releases)

The rights of the subject of a photo are protected not only under rights of privacy, but in some states also under the right of publicity – meaning:

“The right to control how his fame can be exploited for commercial purposes. Unlike rights of privacy, which die with the persons to whom they belong, rights of publicity survive their owners and can be passed along for generations”

(ASMP Property And Model Releases)

Why should releases matter to you?

Why is this important? Well, as Will says on his blog – if you take a photo of someone, although you own the photo, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can legally use it.

So taking your own photos, a strategy mentioned on my original post by several commenters (LOVE YOU GUYS!), is not bullet-proof either. Make sure you have a signed release form for your photos – when needed (again, I’m not a lawyer and don’t plan to become one!)

ASMP kindly offer release templates on their website, including adult, minor, property releases and more. Those are available here, but perhaps you should also read their introductory article first – “What’s In A Release (The Language Of Law)“.

Property Releases

The subject of model releases (either adults or minors) is quite obvious. A more surprising type of release that many people are unaware of is property releases.

Say what?

Will explains:

“if you took a photograph of a building and used it, you could again end up in legal trouble.”

And that applies to dogs, cats and other people’s mice too! This is a very tricky subject, as put by ASMP:

“The whole subject of property releases is filled with urban legend, assumption and myth, along with a bit of actual law.”

(ASMP – Using Property Releases, By Richard Weisgrau and Victor S. Perlman)

“Life is full with shades of grey”, said one of the comments on the previous post. And that is specifically true when tackling property releases.

Generally, properties don’t have privacy or publicity rights. Still, if a property is strongly linked to an individual or a company, they could claim that a photo of their property is much like a photo of themselves (OK, this is over simplified lingo, but you get the deal!).

As an example, if you take a photo of the Trump Tower, and feature it in a blog post about drug addicts, he could very well claim that it’s a defamation of character, and file a lawsuit the next morning.

To make a long story short:

  • If you use your own photos on your blog, make sure they don’t require a release or make sure you get them all signed.
  • If you use photos from public domain websites or Creative Commons collections, remember that many photographers (mainly amateurs and semi-professional) aren’t aware of the need for a release – or don’t bother.
  • This means that although you’re using a licensed photo, you can still get into trouble (DAMN! :()
  • Almost all photo agencies show the photo’s releases on their website – if any were required. This is actually quite an advantage for stock photography.
  • This doesn’t mean you can’t use public domain or Creative Commons collections. But if you specifically need a photo of a model, a child or a famous building (like the Trump Tower…), then you’re probably better off with stock photography for that specific case (unless you take a photo of yourself or your own kids, dogs, or mice) 😉

That’s all for this one

Thanks for reading!


One thought on “Image Copyrights Law And Releases – Are Model Release And Minor Releases Required For Photos On Your Blog”

  1. Yes this is very true. As a contributor to Getty images every image gets reviewed for needed releases. I have had to photoshop out people , logos, etc to have images accepted. Another reason for everyone to use stock libraries. They make sure the appropriate releases are obtained so no one gets sued over property rights etc..

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