Model & Property Releases
What is a model release?
A model release is a signed release from the person(s) (or the parent or legal guardian if a minor) depicted in a stock image, providing consent for his or her likeness to be used for commercial purposes as described in the release. All recognizable people and body parts require signed model releases, with head shots attached to the release if using the image for a commercial purpose. People may be recognizable by their face, distinctive body parts, hair color and style, clothing, uniform, or a tattoo.
What is a property release?
A property release is a signed release from the owner(s) of real or personal property, giving consent for an image depicting his or her property to be used for commercial purposes. The following are examples of property which, if recognizable in the image, require a property release:
- Exteriors and interiors of commercial buildings
- Exteriors and interiors of private homes, condos and apartments
- Privately-owned land
- Commercial spaces, such as offices, restaurants, retail stores, and hotels
- Amusement parks and zoos
- Privately-owned animals
- Cars, boats and planes
- Paintings, statues, and other artworks
- Trademarks (see below)
When do I need a Model or Property release?
Releases are required when using images for commercial purposes that depict recognizable people or property .
Whose responsibility is it to obtain a release?
It is the responsibility of the user to ensure that they have the correct property releases for the licensed use, and that it complies with the relevant local laws. A signed release protects the user from any future lawsuits the person might file for claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy. Releases do not permit defamatory or illegal use.
What do I do if someone claims an image I’ve used is not released?
Contact the company you licensed the image. Show them a copy of the claim you have received, and ask for a copy of the relevant release(s) they have on file.
What about trademarks in an image?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. Trademarks deal with a mark, not the design of an object. Trade dress includes the packaging of a product and may include the shape and design of a product if it is distinctive. For trade dress to apply, the product design must be used to denote the source of the goods. If a product feature is decorative and aesthetic with no source identifying role, it cannot be given exclusive rights under trade dress.
The test for ordinary trademark infringement is the likelihood of confusion that a consumer would believe that the owner of a trademark depicted in an image produced, endorsed or sponsored a product or service of the publisher of that image. As this is a matter of judgement, it is safest to avoid using images for commercial purposes where the main focus includes a recognizable trademark, unless a property release has been obtained.
Some examples of items that may be trademarked:
- anything displaying a brand name or logo
- clothing, and accessories
- books, newspapers, and magazines
- playing cards, and board games
- mobile phones, and other distinctive electronics
- toys, and stuffed animal
Visual Connections accepts no liability for any inaccuracies in fact or interpretation in the information provided here, which does not constitute legal advice.