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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Click On The Dotted Line

From model releases to job contracts, know how to use electronic signatures to get the most benefit for your work


One feature of Easy Release that photographers may find particularly useful is the ability to store and generate a variety of types of model and property releases. Thus, if you travel internationally, or have been advised to use different model releases (or even releases in different languages) under certain circumstances, Easy Release can store and generate each type of release as needed. As of the writing of this article, photographers from more than 30 countries are using Easy Release. The software also implements a number of rules and restrictions that should provide an extra measure of reliability to the releases it generates.

In light of Apple's well-publicized catchphrase "There's an app for that," it probably comes as no surprise that ApplicationGap isn't alone in the marketplace of apps intended to assist photographers dealing with model and property releases. The iTunes Store presently includes a number of apps ranging in price from free to $9.99. These include apps like VMRelease from Tomsuey Inc., a multidisciplinary design collective in New York; iRelease, produced by Fullframe Photographics, a commercial advertising photographic studio in Brisbane, Australia; mRelease, produced by being MEdia, LLC in Seattle, Washington; and Photographers Contract Maker, produced by Michael Shiffler (Michael the Maven) in Gilbert, Arizona.

Some organizations and companies have also released their own electronic model release apps. Corbis released a free app called the Corbis Contributor Gateway, which permits photographers to create electronic releases using Corbis' standard forms, and to upload the signed releases directly to Corbis. More recently, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) started distributing a free app for creating electronic releases. Named ASMP Releases, the app comes preloaded with ASMP's standard and promo-only model and property release forms, as well as Getty's model and property release forms.

While each app has its own approach to capturing and generating model and property releases, you should evaluate them for yourself to assess which you're most comfortable using or which are most likely to work under the conditions where you'll need to obtain model releases.

Regardless of which app you use, it's also important to remember that any of the apps mentioned here are simply tools and not a substitute for legal advice. While many of the apps may include a standard form release, users will still need to ensure that the language of the release is consistent with the release they have been using or have been advised by an attorney to use. In the case of Getty or Corbis (or another agency that requires their contributors to use a certain form release), users will need to ensure that the language is identical to the required form.

It's also important to check with the agencies that represent your work to determine if the agency has a list of approved apps for creating electronic model releases. Getty has indicated that it will accept electronic model releases from certain apps. Recently, iStockphoto announced that it would begin accepting electronic releases generated using approved applications (the announcement specifically identified Easy Release and VMRelease as approved applications).

Are Electronic Signatures In Your Future?
While there will always be skeptics who believe that the advent of the paperless office is as likely as the paperless bathroom, even the most resistant to change may find at some point that they have no alternative but to use electronic signatures if required by customers or vendors. Given the potential cost savings associated with paperwork reduction and the use of electronically signed and stored documents, it's only a matter of time before companies stop accepting traditional paperwork. If you're working with agencies that accept electronic releases, or if you simply want to stay ahead of the curve, you should invest the time to familiarize yourself with the use of electronic signatures now before the use of electronic signatures becomes mandatory.

Samuel Lewis is a Board Certified Intellectual Property law specialist and partner at Feldman Gale, P.A., in Miami, Florida, and a professional photographer who has covered sporting events for more than a quarter-century. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



 

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