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Photo/Information releases: when are they necessary?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by KJIM, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    Need some input on this one.

    New job, working with a nonprofit in disaster relief. I maintain FB pages, do newsletters and stuff like that. I love it.

    Anyway, we're at a decision-making point on whether or not to insist on photo and information releases. I am pretty much against them but recognize in some instances they can be very helpful for CYA tactics.

    So, when do you need them?

    I work with a lot of out-of-town volunteers, and they have signed releases. But we've got local teams stopping by to help and I take photos of them for FB and never even thought to get permission -- after all, I am shooting them and saying, "Hey, this will be on FB in two hours!" or "Smile for the newsletter!" It's pretty clear.

    Or when the church kids came with their parents and sang camp songs and made s'mores, is it necessary to get each of them to sign something? It's a public place.

    I also do a lot of thanking donors by name. Do I really need to chase Sweet Susie down after she's dropped off hand-made drapes for my no-running-water RV to make her sign a form so that I can say "thank you" in a weekly newsletter? Or track down the out-of-state guy and make him fill out paperwork for donating the fair tickets so that I got to see Foreigner and the Zac Brown Band?

    I need to craft some kind of policy. What can I do to dance between CYA and sheer stupidity?

    My supervisor asked me what newspapers do. I don't remember any such thing at AP, though I wasn't a photog. Any guidance, oh SJ Nation?
  2. ADodgen

    ADodgen Member

    You need them any time you're using a photo to advertise your work. It's a pain, and not having them may never become and issue, but you're walking a fine line. I'd especially encourage them whenever there's a minor involved, which is doubly annoying.

    News is different, legally, and doesn't require a release.
  3. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Had one executive editor that was anal about the fact we could NEVER run a submitted photo unless/until we had a signed release on file from the source. Pain in the butt, but we had to do that way.

    Policy seems to vary from one place to another. At another place, we ran a weekly Community Sports page with all sorts of submitted photos. We always included a disclaimer that all items submitted became the property of the Podunk Press. That was to cover out butts from a legal standpoint.
  4. ADodgen

    ADodgen Member

    "Following industry standards, for any work that will appear in consumer or trade magazines, newspapers, or educational books, you generally do not need a model release. This is also true for photographic exhibits. These are considered educational/informational uses.

    However, for photos that will be used in commercial applications - ads, brochures, posters, greeting cards, catalogs, postcards, kiosks, trade shows, Web sites, etc. - you will need a release from your subject in order to be 'legal.'"


    "David Burnett astutely notes in his blog here on the matter of model release shady practices 'Steve McCurry’s picture of the Afghan girl was perhaps the most famous of these: the haunting blue eyes, taken in a camp as part of a bigger reportage, and as he didn’t have her name she became the iconic, nameless beauty of a refugee, only to be found nearly twenty years later. A good attorney could have easily wrangled a seven figure settlement from the Geographic, as they had used her image on everything from advertisements, tip-ins [the annoying little subscription cards that fall out], posters, the list just goes on and on.'"


    "Many more nonprofits are requiring releases and it’s just good sense for you to do so as well. You never know when you might need them or when an angry subject might come after the NGO and they pass the buck to you."

    This link has some good ideas on how to get them.

  5. ADodgen

    ADodgen Member

    A caveat: I'm a photographer, not a lawyer, and all advice in this thread should be weighed accordingly. But this is an issue that comes up all the time in this industry, and I tend to take a very cautious view. I've twice had a potential client interested in an image that I was unable to sell because I didn't have an appropriate release.

    I understand that your situation is different (as it's not full-scale advertising work), but there are some similarities.

    I do some work on a volunteer basis where I attend church, with a friend/fellow photog who also worships there, and we entered into a contract with the church leaders agreeing that the responsibility for model releases falls on them. We'll supply images of activities, but they decide what to use, and if it needs a release, they're tasked with getting it.

    To specifically address your questions: For FSU, I'd say that any image with identifiable people would need a release. For the SA, absolutely. For church facebook... don't know. Ditto for the D,C&H newsletter. I don't know how internal communications are handled. A blanket release ("if you volunteer here, you may be photographed and those images displayed" kind of thing) may be in order. I'd be more cautious about the facebook part.

    I know it sounds like I'm being overly cautious, but it only takes one person with an axe to grind to really muck things up. I'd really encourage a release for anything that's not editorial use.

    I don't know if you do anything outside of property your organization owns, but you may well need a property release as well.

    An edit: have done some more looking into the newsletter question, and while I can't get a perfect consensus, there does exist a camp which considers newsletters editorial.
  6. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    The football fans are covered by fine print on their tickets stating that they consent to full use of their likeness as a condition of admission.
  7. ADodgen

    ADodgen Member


    Curious what you decided to do.
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