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What is a Model Release?

A model release is a type of entertainment contract that permits a company to publish the subject of a photograph for commercial purposes.

You may need a model release form and a brand ambassador or social media marketing agreement when working with influencers.

This is a written agreement that allows authorized users to publish an image. The person depicted in your image must agree that you and/or your organization have exclusive rights to modify, publish, and redistribute images with them in it or images they take themselves for promotional content.

Here is an article that reviews the purpose of model release forms.

Purpose of a Model Release

A model release form is a liability waiver and exclusivity agreement. It may be part of an influencer agreement where a creator takes images to promote a brand online.

The business may want to reserve the copyright to any images the subject produces for commercial purposes. The model release form relinquishes the model’s rights to the photography, so the company can freely publish them.

In a social media agreement, a model release allows you to publish and share someone else’s content as your own. But, of course, the content they produce is their intellectual property. Still, the written agreement between you and the subject is an exclusive rights agreement.

Here is an article with a sample model release form.

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What Should a Model Release Include?

A model release should outline the client’s and company’s rights to publish content taken for commercial purposes. Content includes photographs and videos featuring the model.

The model can also specify how they want the photos or videos to be used. This prevents them from being featured in mediums they are uncomfortable with or having their likeness used to promote goods, services, or ideologies they do not endorse.

A good model release form should include:

  • A distinction between the subject, i.e., the model in question, and the company
  • The business name and address
  • The type of media they will be featured in
  • How their images will be used
  • An exclusive rights agreement to grant the company permission to use their photos or videos for commercial purposes
  • Rights regarding the release of images to other companies for redistribution

It is best to keep your model release form short and easy to understand. Write your release form in everyday English. If the model release is part of a larger promotion agreement or influencer agreement, it can be attached as an amendment to those documents.

Here is an article with more information on what to cover in model releases.

Is a Model Release Necessary?

If you use photos or videos of someone for commercial purposes, then a model release form is a necessary form of legal protection.

Without the release, the model could file a lawsuit against you and your business. They could also demand compensation for your company's profits from marketing featuring their imagery or likeness.

Model release forms can protect you from unfair exploitation as a model or influencer. In addition, you can set boundaries for how companies may use your content and give yourself greater peace of mind when serving as a brand ambassador.

If the models are under 18, they must have their parents sign a model release form. No one underage, even social media personalities, can sign legally binding documents.

Here is an article with more details on why model releases matter.

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When to Use a Model Release

You should use a model release form if you are:

  • A photographer using someone else’s images for marketing purposes
  • A business using someone else’s images for marketing purposes
  • An individual using someone else’s images for marketing purposes

If you photograph someone and do not sign a model release, they may sue you later if they find their images shared online or in advertising material.

It is essential to be as transparent as possible about where and how imagery will be used. For example, the person depicted in your image may not want to appear on billboards or social media ads. They should be free to negotiate under what circumstances you can share photos of them with the public.

Models may sue companies for compensation for emotional or financial damages if images are shared without their consent. In some situations, being recognized as a model for a particular cause or brand could have negative consequences.

The model release form waives the model’s right to sue by establishing clear guidelines for how their images will be used. In addition to giving them protection, it also protects the company from unnecessary lawsuits in the future.

Here is an article with a lawyer’s explanation of when you need to use a model release form.

How Do You Get a Model Release?

Model release forms are available for free online. You can edit a pre-written template or write one yourself. You could also contact a contract lawyer and have them write a sample model release form for you.

In the future, you can modify the base model release form from your lawyer for all models you work with in the future.

Here is an article with an example of a model release form, including options for video release.

Benefits of Using a Model Release

Photographers can use a model release to protect their name and business. However, if you do not acquire a model’s consent before sharing their photos, you could face lawsuits in the future.

Model releases release you from any liabilities and responsibility for damages the model might face after your photoshoot. For example, suppose you post pictures online, and the model does not like how they are received. In that case, you won’t be held accountable for any emotional or personal damages.

Furthermore, the model release permits you to publish the photos for personal or commercial use. Your release form can outline precisely how images will be used. What compensation, if any, is the model entitled to?

A model release form is necessary if you plan to post your photos online, even in your portfolio.

For businesses working with influencers, model releases can establish boundaries between your company’s marketing material and the model’s photos. By having them sign a model release, you can clearly explain how the images will be used and what rights your company has to edit, share, sell, and publish them.

Here is an article on model release forms for photographers.

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