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Photo Release Basics

A Photo Release grants you or your business permission to use the likeness of another and helps protect you in case they change their mind down the road. No matter your needs, be it a promotion for your small business or for your multi-million dollar advertising campaign, a Photo Release can help you avoid future issues should you have a falling out with your model.

Use the Photo Release document if:

  • You're taking someone's photo for your personal or professional use.
  • You're a professional photographer.

You should probably have a Photo Release available whenever you're snapping someone's picture. It's your legal permission slip to use the photo for your own purposes. Maybe you're planning on creating stock photos, or maybe you're designing a new brochure. No matter what your reason, it's important to do things legally. Don't depend on someone's verbal consent, people can change their minds and if you need proof of the agreement you may be out your perfect shot. You need to make sure that whatever you capture is yours and you don't need to be a professional photographer to benefit from a paper trail. Having a Photo Release signed by everyone you photograph is smart and easy.

When Do I Need a Photo Release Form?
A photo release is needed whenever you wish to use another's likeness towards a commercial endeavor. Likeness, in a legal sense, is one's appearance or reputation and everyone, not just celebrities, is considered to have control over their own likeness and its use. While recording laws in many states allow snapping pictures in public spaces, using those images to promote a product is another matter entirely. A photo release lets an individual grant the use of their likeness for the purposes specified in the document.

If you'd like more information, check out our article further detailing when you need a photo release.

Are My Photos Protected by Copyright Law?
Yes, photographs are protected by U.S. copyright law. Copyright protection, as opposed to patents and trademarks, affect creative works of authorship and are granted to the work the moment it is created. Although protection is automatic, it is also possible to register your copyright. Doing so can help strengthen your legal case should you ever need to defend your copyright in court.

If you're interested in registering a copyright for one of your photos you can do so through the United States Copyright Office. The office allows both online and traditional paper registration for a fee. At the time of writing (2016) the fee registering online is $35 if it is a single work by a single author and $55 otherwise. The fee for paper filing is $85. A detailed overview of the process can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office's website.

What Do I Do If My Copyright Is Infringed?
Copyright infringement is a matter for civil courts. If your copyright has been infringed upon you should consult a lawyer. Typically, battling infringement begins with contacting the offending parties. This is where a cease and desist notice or a simple letter will come into play. With any luck, that's all it'll take; however, if infringement persists you'll need to bring the issue to court.

Can I Sell Or Transfer My Photo Copyright?
Yes, it is entirely possible to transfer intellectual property rights to another individual or business. Legally speaking, owning a copyright is often referred to having title. The rights granted by holding title can be given to another with a transfer of title. This typically will take place in a standard contract with any compensation and stipulations contained within.


Sample Photo Release

More than just a template, our step-by-step interview process makes it easy to create a Photo Release.

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Photo Release Basics

You should probably have a Photo Release available whenever you're snapping someone's picture. It's your legal permission slip to use the photo for your own purposes. Maybe you're planning on creating stock photos, or maybe you're designing a new brochure. No matter what your reason, it's important to do things legally. Don't depend on someone's verbal consent, people can change their minds and if you need proof of the agreement you may be out your perfect shot. You need to make sure that whatever you capture is yours and you don't need to be a professional photographer to benefit from a paper trail. Having a Photo Release signed by everyone you photograph is smart and easy.

When Do I Need a Photo Release Form?
A photo release is needed whenever you wish to use another's likeness towards a commercial endeavor. Likeness, in a legal sense, is one's appearance or reputation and everyone, not just celebrities, is considered to have control over their own likeness and its use. While recording laws in many states allow snapping pictures in public spaces, using those images to promote a product is another matter entirely. A photo release lets an individual grant the use of their likeness for the purposes specified in the document.

If you'd like more information, check out our article further detailing when you need a photo release.

Are My Photos Protected by Copyright Law?
Yes, photographs are protected by U.S. copyright law. Copyright protection, as opposed to patents and trademarks, affect creative works of authorship and are granted to the work the moment it is created. Although protection is automatic, it is also possible to register your copyright. Doing so can help strengthen your legal case should you ever need to defend your copyright in court.

If you're interested in registering a copyright for one of your photos you can do so through the United States Copyright Office. The office allows both online and traditional paper registration for a fee. At the time of writing (2016) the fee registering online is $35 if it is a single work by a single author and $55 otherwise. The fee for paper filing is $85. A detailed overview of the process can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office's website.

What Do I Do If My Copyright Is Infringed?
Copyright infringement is a matter for civil courts. If your copyright has been infringed upon you should consult a lawyer. Typically, battling infringement begins with contacting the offending parties. This is where a cease and desist notice or a simple letter will come into play. With any luck, that's all it'll take; however, if infringement persists you'll need to bring the issue to court.

Can I Sell Or Transfer My Photo Copyright?
Yes, it is entirely possible to transfer intellectual property rights to another individual or business. Legally speaking, owning a copyright is often referred to having title. The rights granted by holding title can be given to another with a transfer of title. This typically will take place in a standard contract with any compensation and stipulations contained within.

Use the Photo Release document if:
  • You're taking someone's photo for your personal or professional use.
  • You're a professional photographer.
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