When a photograph involves other people, it is practical to take their permission before using it for commercial or personal use. This ensures that there are no disputes later on regarding the use of the photograph. This can be achieved by using a photo release form. Also known as a photo release consent form, it allows one party to use the photo of another party after getting his/her consent.
The party that permits the photograph to be ‘released’ and therefore used further is called the ‘releasor.’ The party that seeks to use the photograph is called the ‘releasee.’ The form is essentially an agreement between the releasor and the releasee. The releasor gives up some of her rights in the photograph and undertakes not to sue the releasee for using it.
If you are a photographer or a business that intends to use photographs for marketing your business or publishing them somewhere, you will have to get the permission of your client or people in the photographs by using a photo release form. The client will be the releasor. The form becomes a legally binding document, and both parties have to abide by its terms and conditions. It is usually a simple document having one or two pages.
When Do You Need a Photo Release Form?
Every individual has the right to control the use of their name and image. This right is granted under publicity laws. It is based on the concept of the ‘likeness’ of a person. ‘Likeness’ refers to the representation of a person to promote a specific idea or business. If you have a photograph that depicts a recognizable person and you want to use it for commercial use, you need to get their consent first. You may be intending to use the photo for the promotion of your business, idea, or publication.
For example, if you are a business who plans to use the photograph of a person in your prospectus, you have first to get her permission before you can use the photograph. If you use it without her consent, you can face a lawsuit for violating her rights. To avoid that, you need a photo release form through which the person allows you to use her picture. The form contains the conditions of use of the photograph- how, where, and for what purpose it can be used. Once it is signed by the releasor (person in the photograph), you are free to use the photograph as per the terms mentioned in the form.
If you are a photographer, you need to have such forms ready for your clients. However, if you take pictures of public places like streets and markets, you do not need to get a form signed by the people who appear in the photograph. However, if the subject of your photograph is in a public place and can be recognized, you have to ask his/her permission before using that photo for commercial purposes. You cannot use a person’s image without their consent in your promotional material to indicate that they endorse your business or idea.
Contents of a Photo Release Form
A generic photo release form typically contains the following:
- Names of the parties– the releasor and releasee. To be clear about their identities, including their addresses and contact details.
- Date of the agreement
- Statement of consent allowing the releasee to use the photograph
- Description of the picture– this may include the specific project for which the photographs are taken, date, and place of taking a photograph.
- Details of the permissions granted– this includes how the photograph may be used. For instance, the releasor may restrict the use and allow the photograph to be used only in business publications. Alternatively, he/she may allow full use of the photograph on social media, websites, and publications.
- If the releasor has to be paid any compensation for the photograph, it should be clearly stated in the document.
- Parties may choose to include a provision of ownership that states that the releasee will retain ownership of the photographs.
- Include a statement declaring that the releasor waives the right to sue the releasee for using the photographs.
- Consequences of violating the conditions of use– the form can have a provision that describes what happens if any party violates the terms mentioned in it. The defaulting party can be asked to pay compensation to the aggrieved party. The parties can decide the amount and mention it in the agreement. They may also choose to determine the amount of payment later on at the time of default.
- Governing law– Mention which state’s law will govern the agreement.
- Signature of the parties– it is crucial to ensure that both parties have signed the form.
In case the releasor is a minor, a photo release form for minors has to be used. Here, the parents or guardian will sign the form on behalf of the minor releasor.
How to Draft a Photo Release Form for Photographers?
If you are a photographer drafting the form, make sure that you include your name and address as well as all the relevant details about the releasor- name, address, and contact number. State the intent of using the photographs- that is, for commercial purposes or for promotional use in posters- and the manner of using them. It makes sense for a photographer not to restrict the use of the photos to one particular medium. However, it depends on the releasor how he/she wants their image to be used. You may also customize the form according to your needs and add suitable terms.
As a photographer, you should actively discuss the form with the client to negotiate favorable release conditions. Explain to them why it is essential to sign the form. This will develop a feeling of trust, and they will be at ease while allowing you to use their photos. Make it clear whether you intend to use their photograph for commercial or promotional activities, on your website or poster, or if they will receive any compensation for the use of photographs. It is better to discuss all the potential issues beforehand. It prevents any future disputes between the parties.
You do not need a lawyer to draft the form for you. However, state laws in the USA vary with every state. Therefore, it is advisable to get the form reviewed by a lawyer. This will ensure that you comply with the state-specific laws and not miss out on any legal requirement.
Types of Photo Release Forms
The different types are:
- Model photo release form: This form is evidence of the model’s consent to allow the releasee (usually the photographer) to use his/her image for commercial purposes or for promoting his business.
- Photo and video release form: This document allows the releasee to use the releasor’s photo or video for commercial or promotional use.
- Photo release form for social media: By signing this form, the releasor allows the releasee to use his images on various social media platforms.
- Photo copyright release form: This is a unique form in the sense that it allows the releasee to use those photos in which the releasor has copyright. For example, if a photographer covers a business event, he owns the copyright in those photographs. Photographs are protected under copyright laws. Only the owner of the copyright can decide who can use them and how. With the help of this form, he can allow the company to use the photos for its commercial/promotional purposes. The copyright release can either apply to one specific photo or a collection of photos.
Benefits of a Photo Release Form
- It avoids legal disputes that may arise due to the absence of permission to use the photograph.
- It saves time and money for both parties as it protects them for claims against each other.
- It provides both parties with a sense of security that the photographs will be used as per the terms agreed between them.
What Happens If a Photo Release Form Is Violated?
If the form contains a provision that states the consequences of violating its conditions, then such an arrangement will be invoked. Usually, the defaulting party will be asked to pay compensation to the other party as per the clause of the agreement. However, if no such provision is mentioned, then it will be considered a breach of contract, and the defaulting party can be sued in the local court(1).
As discussed above, a photographer needs to have a photo release form for clients. It may look like a simple document, but it avoids potential disputes. Even business entities that use photographs of other people or places should have such forms in place if they intend to utilize those photos for their commercial use. It protects the rights of both parties and prevents legal hassles. Even though you do not require a lawyer to draft the form, you must cover all the relevant areas to avoid any gaps.