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Photo Release basics

A Photo Release is needed whenever you wish to use another person's likeness. Likeness, in a legal sense, is one's appearance or reputation and without a signed model release, the person photographed owns that likeness. While recording laws in many states allow you to take pictures in public spaces, using those images for mass distribution or a commercial project is not always allowed. To protect yourself and your clients, you should always obtain a Photo Release as a photographer.

How do I make a Photo Release form?

Rocket Lawyer offers a Photo Release form for free. Our step-by-step process allows anyone to make a printable Photo Release easily. Your document can be signed and stored online for safekeeping and easy access in the future.

Do you need permission to use a photo of someone?

You need permission to use a photo of someone when you are doing so for a commercial purpose. Using a photo for an editorial purpose is one potential exception to this rule.

A photo release is your legal permission slip to use the photo for your own commercial or other purposes. Common uses of photographs that require release forms include stock photos or designing a new brochure or portfolio. No matter what your reason, it's important to protect yourself and your company, as someone's verbal consent is difficult to prove if there is a dispute. Having a Photo Release signed by everyone is not only easy to do, but prudent.

Why do you need a model release form?

A signed Photo Release form (also called a Model Release) essentially releases the model's ownership of the images taken by you or your business. With this permission, you can use the photos as you like, whether it be for a creative art project or for a commercial advertising campaign. It is always a good business practice to obtain a Model Release. In fact, clients you represent may require releases before they use your images in their projects, especially if the photos include minors.

What happens if you use an image without permission?

If you use a photo that has been taken by someone else without their express permission, then you could be in violation of copyright law. Photographers can legally protect the use of their work.

If you use an image that you have personally created, without permission from the person whose photograph was taken, then you may be violating that person's right of publicity. You could be liable for monetary damages, in addition to a cease and desist order.

The editorial use of a photo may present an exception to this requirement. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially since making a photo release form is so simple to do. If you have further questions about Photo Release forms, talk to a lawyer.

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