Watch out!

If you sell photographs for commercial use, and they show identifiable people, you must get a signed model release, or face the possibility of serious legal action (particularly in the USA).

A model release is a document in which the person (or persons) whose image is shown affirms that they have no objection to it being used in publicity, or for any other purpose.

What really put the wind up photographers and agencies was a case in 2005 when a kindergarten teacher, called Russell Christoff, was awarded $15.6 million damages as a result of Nestle U.S.A. using his image on 'Taster’s Choice' coffee labels.

You can read more details of the case here.

And if, having heard that, you're now worried, check Getty Images website. They have kindly made a whole range of model releases available for all photographers. You can find them here.

But ... c'mon agencies. Aren't you getting a little bit too windy?

I recently made an image of Jess as a puppy, looking lost ...

It was rejected by one agency for 'lack of model release'.

Omigod ... have pets now started suing their owners in the States?

Anyone got an ink pad big enough for a dog's paw?


Lee Torrens said...

My understanding is that it's the publisher of the image who is liable, not the photographer. You can't be held accountable for what other people do with your image.

That being said, agencies are wisely unlikely to accept a photo without a model release, as it puts their customers at risk if they use it.

As for the dog, model releases are only required for people, not animals. Perhaps the rejection was for lack of a 'property' release instead of a 'model' release. There's a pretty distinctive property in the back of that photo.

Good luck!

Alistair Scott said...

Thanks for that information Lee. I think it's a moot legal point as to whether the publisher, agent or photographer are liable ... and I'm not a lawyer.

The bottom line is that the photographer owns the copyright to an image (or should do if he/she is dealing with a reputable agency). So there's a chance of ultimate liability.

If anyone who has knowledge in this field is reading, maybe they could chip in.

As for the rejection ... it specifically said '... lack of model release." The property in the background is a small Swiss church, and the image was taken from a public road.

I suspect it was just an over-cautious reviewer.