Model Releases

July 26th, 2010

We’re always asked if we want model releases with the photographs we sell.

The short answer is Yes. It’s much easier to sell a photograph with a model release than without one.

But given that the great majority of fotoLibra’s images sales are for editorial use, it’s not always absolutely essential. It merely restricts the possible markets for the photograph. You don’t generally need a model release for an image used editorially.

Now here is a terrible example, an awful warning. Someone took a picture of a very photogenic Greek shepherd complete with luxuriant beard. It was uploaded to a picture library. No names, because I don’t know them.

A Swedish yogurt manufacturer bought the photograph from the picture library and plastered it over his pots of “Turkish” yogurt. Unfortunately the shepherd’s cousin happened to be living in Stockholm and spotted his kinsman being passed off as a Turk. This is an offensive concept to many Greeks.

What was more offensive is that the subject of the photograph hadn’t given his permission for it to be used in advertising. He hadn’t signed a model release. Almost all shepherds have smart cosmopolitan lawyers these days, and the yogurt company was slapped with a £4.5 million lawsuit.

Our simple, bucolic countryman apparently settled later for £150,000, which is a lot more expensive than buying a properly licensed image from a company such as fotoLibra.

You can read more about this story (and see the offending yogurt pot) on the BBC site (so it must be true) and you can download and print off as many fotoLibra Model release forms as you like from here, and of course property release forms from here. When you use these, keep the signed piece of paper as a record of your contract with the subject and tick the ‘Model Release’ and ‘Property Release’ boxes on your Edit page with a carefree heart.

We will of course double check with you should we be about to sell one of your images to a yogurt pot manufacturer or other commercial organisation.I don’t know where the fault lies here — if the yogurt company had revealed the end use of the image to the picture library and they had authorised the sale without clearances, then the library is to blame. If the yogurt company just bought the picture without revealing what it was going to be used for, then the yogurt company is to blame.

The shepherd and the photographer would seem to be the only two innocent parties here. Unless the photographer misrepresented the image to the picture library, claiming it was model released.

Oh, I don’t know. Just be careful, that’s all.

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2 Responses to “Model Releases”

  1. Mick Saunders says:

    I’m a bit hazy about model and property releases. Am I right to think that editorial use means a pic can be used to illustrate an article in a mag, or used as an illustration in a book, without a release, but it can’t be used for other things?
    I just looked through the recently sold, not many have releases, and some without releases read the Rights sold included calendars and merchandising?
    Confused:-)
    best
    Mick

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