This is the second and last installment of our previous topic concerning copyrights and releases for photographic works. As stated in the previous post my photographer and I were discussing model releases and thought others could share in our experiences with them.
Personal Copyright Issues
If the photograph is that of a person, it is necessary to obtain the permission of the person depicted in the photograph to use his or her likeness in the form of a model release. U.S. courts and some other jurisdictions have acknowledged a “right of publicity,” a right that originates from the “right of privacy.” These rights pertain to all living persons and, under certain instances, those deceased.
There are numerous sub-elements that have to be addressed in terms of the right of privacy:
- A person’s resemblance and name may not be used for commercial purposes without the person’s permission. Doing so implies, that where the photograph is used to sell a product or service, the individual supports or endorses said product or service. If utilizing such a photograph is in your strategy, then without a doubt you will need a valid license from that person in order to do so. Also take into consideration that such permission may come with a hefty price tag.
- Additionally, if your use is not for “commercial purposes,” you still must have releases in writing from each of those whose images are distinguishable in the photograph. More and more pro photographers carry model releases with them that the model, pro and otherwise, signs permitting these personal rights to the photographer.
- In some cases a person might appear in a photo and be identifiable, even though no part of their face is shown at all. A scar or tattoo might lend recognition to the subject giving the identity away, or it may be the time, place and company kept, which makes the context distinctive enough to warrant a release.
But a word of warning: Even though you are granted permission often the releases may have constraints on the freedoms granted the photographer and subsequently, if the photographer permits you more rights than the photographer has, he and you may be accountable to the subject. Which means, it’s usually advisable to get the subject to sign a different release as well, even though the photographer may communicate that he or she has such permission. You want to avoid a lawsuit by any means. So, follow through properly and thoroughly the first time and you are golden.
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In some very specific instances, a photograph of a public figure may be employed without authorization however, these situations should be assessed thoroughly. If, for example, the person is a politician or is a private figure but one who is engaged in a matter of public interest (Casey Anthony) and in each instance the use of the image is directly relevant to the person’s public status, then the process of law states that in those circumstances, the right of the person to his or her privacy gives way to the public’s right to obtain the “pubic” information. But, this is a scenario that is very limited. Aside from all this, if you somehow intend to use that image in a permissible way without having the subject’s permission, in the end you must have a release from the copyright owner of the original photograph. Regardless of the subject matter, if your intentions is to use a photograph of a person for commercial applications, you absolutely must have a signed release affording you permission.
Author: LA Pride
LA Pride is a native Floridian who is interested in many things including temporal physics, critical thinking, board games, kite boarding and photography to name a few. His primary areas of interest include web CMS, vector and 3D art. He is also the Founder and Sr. Web Developer of NQN Media Group. You can visit his website, or friend him on Facebook.