Home | Business | Why Businesses Should Always Have a Model Release
Business

Why Businesses Should Always Have a Model Release

Model Release

Let’s start with some advice: Any graphic materials that promotes something; whether products, a businesses, or charitable causes, and the graphics contain images of recognizable people, — always have those people sign a model release. Of course, there are non-commercial uses that may also require a model release, (see When To Use A Model Release) but commercial uses almost always require a release. One might think that having models sign releases before using their image would be obvious, but far too often usage agreements are just handshakes, and that is not good. For businesses, in particular, releases should be standard procedure for several reasons.

Why is a Model Release Important for Business?

The first has to do with the nature of the activity and the legal reasoning behind filing a lawsuit, also known as a cause of action. The most common causes of action for these types of cases are:

  1. Unlawful Use of a Person’s Likeness
  2. Violating a Person’s Right of Publicity

While the details may vary slightly from state to state, in general, both causes of actions require the person suing to prove three elements in order to win. First, the offending image must include their likeness, whether it’s a photo of them or some representation that would be recognizable. Second, the use of their likeness must be for a commercial purpose, or other exploitative purpose. That doesn’t mean it has to be a monetary purpose. Even using an image for a Public Service Announcement (PSA) is considered a commercial use. Finally, a person must not have consented to the use.

So here is the point: any company that creates images are by their nature, images for commercial use and so any recognizable person in the images will have a a cause of action for a lawsuit. It doesn’t matter whether the model is hired by a photographer instead of a company or how the image may have been used in the past. Once a person’s likeness is used for a commercial purpose, they may have a cause of action.

Model Release required
By Paul L.R. Dubois

The second reason has to do with economics. Lawsuits are costly endeavors so before initiating a lawsuit, the plaintiff and his or her lawyers will calculate the odds of winning against the legal costs and potential payout, along with whether or not the defendant will be able to pay. If the defendant has no money, then there is little point in suing. Because companies usually have higher equity than individuals, they can afford to pay. And if the payout is minimal relative to the company’s earning, people hope that the legal costs will be minimal because the company is likely to offer a quick settlement to get rid of the case rather than draw it out. On the other hand, if a model finds his or her image being used on a personal blog, the incentive for a lawsuit just isn’t there. A cease and desist letter will be sent, and most likely the image will be removed and the case will end there. If a company uses that same image on product packaging, expect a lawsuit.

However, none of the above scenarios can happen if there is a model release because consent is a total defense to both causes of action. Be careful that a model release is expansive enough. You can’t have a release to use a model’s photos for a fashion magazine and later use that photo for another client’s billboard advertising, unless the release covers that wide of a use.

What Should Be Included in a Model Release?

The release is merely a model providing permission for the hiring party to use his or her likeness for a defined period of time and for a specified purpose in return for something of value, such as money, publicity, or copies of the images. The model release can say that the images can be used for anything and forever, but a model may not want to sign a release that broad. In that case, negotiate the terms and spell them out in the release. But consider possible future uses. For example, photographing a print ad for Gucci may later become a billboard or web ad, so the release can state that the photos may be for print or digital uses but only for Gucci and limited to three years.

At the bottom of this post, I have provided a free model release form. It is very broad so change it based on your particular needs. There is never a one size fits all in law, so if you have an attorney that can customize one, you will be better protected. Parts of this release come from one provided by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), a non-profit association promoting photographers’ rights, education publications and helps connect purchasers with professional photographers. They have many excellent free resources that you may want to check out.

For those of you who are more tech savvy, there are several mobile apps that will create releases. One that I find useful is Release Me. Users can tailor the terms of the releases, have models digitally sign them and then the program stores the releases for easy access. For more details, watch the video below.

Or you can stick with a standard form, signed by hand, on paper.

or download the Model Release in Word format.

If you found this article helpful and think other might find it useful, help us grow our audience by sharing it on your social media. The promotion would be greatly appreciated.

About the author

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

1 Comment

Click here to post a comment

The Latest From Artrepreneur

  • What is Participatory Design in the Arts?

    Introducing principles of participatory design and participatory art into your work can create a more personal experience for your audience, while also promoting repeated viewings for new experiences.The post What is Participatory Design in the […]

  • Let’s Get Virtual! VR Innovations Bridge Fine Arts & Technology

    How is VR and AR affecting the fine arts sector? In a conversation with [email protected] radio, Grace Cho and Todd Berreth discuss emerging trends in VR art.The post Let’s Get Virtual! VR Innovations Bridge Fine Arts & Technology appeared first on […]

  • Mi-Kyoung Lee on Developing a Practice Far From Home

    Born in South Korea, Philadelphia-based artist Mi-Kyoung Lee weaves fiber and plastic to create ethereal sculptures that meditate on labor and domesticity.The post Mi-Kyoung Lee on Developing a Practice Far From Home appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How an Artist and Musician Collab Can Help Double Your Audience

    From album cover art to costumes and set designs, pairing an artist and musician for an ongoing collaboration is a wonderful way to expand both their networks.The post How an Artist and Musician Collab Can Help Double Your Audience appeared first on […]

  • Why Artists Should Still Use Handwritten Notes

    Looking for a way to connect with your private collectors? Handwritten notes remain a charming gesture that makes a lasting impression.The post Why Artists Should Still Use Handwritten Notes appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Is The End of the Art Fair in Sight?

    Is the art fair model dead? The advent of online art sales and the high cost of participation has the art world wondering whether more fairs equals more problems.The post Is The End of the Art Fair in Sight? appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Ditch the Pricey Rent and Run a Pop Up Gallery Instead

    Throughout history, artists have held a pop up gallery exhibition as an intrepid way of drawing attention to their work. Here's why you shouldn't wait for a gallery to come knocking.The post Ditch the Pricey Rent and Run a Pop Up Gallery Instead […]

  • Exploring Alternative Art Spaces to Show Your Work

    Galleries aren't the only places looking to show art. Alternative art spaces like cafes and music venues can help you expand your influence and your market.The post Exploring Alternative Art Spaces to Show Your Work appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • NYAA Grad Matthew Alfonso Durante on Taking Risks

    Artrepreneur sits down with NYAA grad Matthew Alfonso Durante and talk about rural Wisconsin, coming to New York and comic books.The post NYAA Grad Matthew Alfonso Durante on Taking Risks appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • The Documents You Need to Sell Your Artwork

    Want to sell your artwork on your own? An artist bill of sale and certificate of authenticity are crucial documents to ensure the sale remains professional and fruitful.The post The Documents You Need to Sell Your Artwork appeared first on […]

  • Kiril Jeliazkov’s The Orange Step Arrives in D.C.

    Kiril Jeliazkov's "The Orange Step" builds upon Bulgarian artist Christo's infamous work, with the artist's own spin. Jeliazkov discusses his latest work with Artrepreneur.The post Kiril Jeliazkov’s The Orange Step Arrives in D.C. appeared […]

  • How to Start Art Nonprofits

    Are you an artist wondering how to start a nonprofit? From registering a 501c3 to organizing a board, here's what it takes to launch art nonprofits.The post How to Start Art Nonprofits appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How Artists Use Pinterest to Market Their Work

    Artists use Pinterest to market their online platforms while offering a behind-the-scenes view of their daily inspirations. Here's how to incorporate Pinterest into your art marketing strategy.The post How Artists Use Pinterest to Market Their Work […]

  • Amze Emmons on Forging Opportunities Through Nontraditional Projects

    On the heels of a fellowship at CFEVA, print artist Amze Emmons shares why an artist's career trajectory should include some outside-the-box creative projects.The post Amze Emmons on Forging Opportunities Through Nontraditional Projects appeared […]

  • Here’s Why You Need to Have an Artist Newsletter

    Creating an artist newsletter ensures your creative content is seen by your fans. From building a subscriber list to email marketing services, our tips will get you up to speed on creating your own.The post Here’s Why You Need to Have an […]

  • Should I Negotiate the Price of My Artwork?

    What do you do when your artwork quote or freelance rates aren't automatically accepted by a potential client? Our negotiation strategies will help artists and creatives sort out a tricky financial agreement.The post Should I Negotiate the Price of […]

  • Pricing Artwork with Borbay’s Contemporary Art Pricing Chart

    Artist Borbay shares his approach for pricing artwork and reveals the secrets behind his popular contemporary art pricing chart.The post Pricing Artwork with Borbay’s Contemporary Art Pricing Chart appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • In the Know: Catching up with Celine Mo of Brooklyn’s Victori+Mo

    Celine Mo, the co-director of Brooklyn art gallery Victori + Mo, shares what she finds most compelling in the contemporary art world today.The post In the Know: Catching up with Celine Mo of Brooklyn’s Victori+Mo appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • UArts CEO David Yager on Whether Creativity Can Be Taught

    Is creativity an innate skill, or can it be taught? University of the Arts CEO David Yager reflects on how to boost creativity no matter the workplace in a recent interview with [email protected] post UArts CEO David Yager on Whether Creativity […]

  • Painter Marie-Dolma Chophel on Creating New Worlds

    Using a blend of painting and technology to create powerful and organic dreamscapes, artist Marie-Dolma Chophel discusses her transcontinental career with Artrepreneur.The post Painter Marie-Dolma Chophel on Creating New Worlds appeared first on […]