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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Release Me!

If you want to feel properly protected and have the latitude to maximize your ability to sell an image, don’t forget the model releases when you hit the street

• Waiver. Some forms include an express waiver by the person signing the release to review or approve the manner in which photographs of the person may be used.

• Age Of Majority/Competency To Sign Release. Some forms include a representation that the person signing the release is old enough and competent to enter into a binding contract. Some forms may include language to permit a parent or guardian to sign a release on behalf of a child and to address the situation when the child attains the age of majority.

As with most contracts, the goal is to strike a happy balance between too little language and too much language. Too little language and the model release is incapable of providing a photographer with broad and unfettered rights to commercialize photographs; too much language may cause a person to think twice about signing the release.

If you’re not currently using a model release, you should reconsider your practices. Various photographer’s associations provide members (and in some instances, the general public) with a variety of form model releases. For example, the National Press Photographers Association has a set of form model releases on its website, www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/releases/. Even if you find a form model release that suits your tastes, it’s still advisable to spend a few minutes reviewing the form with your attorney to understand what may be missing, what can be removed from the release and whether any corrections are required.

Some Knowledge And An Ounce Of Common Sense
Knowing and understanding the types of restrictions that you may encounter is generally half the battle. Once the restrictions have been anticipated, it becomes a matter of logistics to arrange for the various permissions that may be required.

Even with proper planning, there’s a possibility that you may be faced with unanticipated restrictions or confrontations. At such times, avoiding a cavalier attitude and exercising an ounce of common sense can go a long way. Indeed, working calmly with the public, business owners and law enforcement officials often can smooth out the wrinkles, leaving you to focus on creating discrete and even timeless images in everyday places.

Samuel Lewis is a Board Certified Intellectual Property law specialist and partner at Feldman Gale, P.A. in Miami, Fla., and a professional photographer who has covered sporting events for 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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