663556_78743243This is a huge top­ic with clients; here are some thoughts I shared recent­ly:

FYI: I don’t want to argue with lawyers, but I’ll just give you my under­stand­ing of it… just my opin­ion, don’t sue me 😉

They always say that pho­to rights are on a slid­ing scale of ‘Loca­tion’ and ‘Usage’… the more pub­lic the loca­tion and the more ‘news’ the usage, the more clear the abil­i­ty to do what you want with the pho­to. The more pri­vate the loca­tion and the more ‘adver­tis­ing’ the use, the more you need signed per­mis­sion. You have to decide on how far the bal­ance is tipped in each sit­u­a­tion.

Scales in red light 2

This is pret­ty con­sis­tent with what my clients do. At the biggest col­lege I work for, we don’t get pho­to release per­mis­sion forms on any­thing dur­ing Reunion. And those pho­tos go up in sev­er­al online gal­leries.
We do get them when I pho­to­graph in a hos­pi­tal (no sur­prise… not ‘pub­lic’, very pri­vate and with HIPAA rules) and I’m sure the Mar­ket­ing team gets them for the Bill­boards and ads (which I don’t take the pho­tos for).

What shots don’t need releas­es?


There is a point where the group is large enough in a pho­to, that a release isn’t expect­ed. If it’s a very pub­lic event, and a very wide shot of the crowd with no real main sub­ject focus, you would be less apt to be told to get a pho­to release for fair­ly ‘safe’ uses, like pro­mot­ing the event next year, etc.

And let’s not for­get the clas­sic ‘no faces show­ing’ option, where peo­ple are only seen from behind. When done well, you don’t even think about it.

(in this pho­to, the only face show­ing is a staff mem­ber)

But the lawyers!
Caucasian businessman poin

It’s total­ly pos­si­ble that lawyers might say that you must have every sin­gle pho­to released before using it in any fash­ion… but that would be crazy and impos­si­ble to do on a large scale event. But a lawyer’s job is to play it super-safe and they may not think through the impli­ca­tions.

I’d esti­mate that get­ting per­mis­sions would cut the num­ber of pho­tos by a fac­tor of 10 and add one or two work­ers to fol­low me. Imag­ine get­ting the form from every sub­ject in groups tak­en on the run. I’d be hold­ing things up and being a pest. Real­ly, I’d just have to focus at each event on 2 or 3 good shots, and not get the oth­er 20 things I get. And that becomes a deci­sion you’d have to make.

We did releas­es once for a brochure (so it was mar­ket­ing use, not news), at a very pub­lic event and it was so crazy, I’d think twice before doing it again… or more like­ly would change what I attempt­ed to do… and for that shoot, I had 2 helpers get­ting forms signed.

Hope that helps explain the dif­fi­cul­ties of a sys­tem of hav­ing every pho­to tak­en hav­ing a signed release at every pub­lic event.

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