Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Model Release Question

"I am interested in taking portrait commissions. Do you recommend, when either taking photos for reference or using a customer's photo, using a signed model release? I want to avoid any possible legal problems in the future."

Thanks for your email!

When you present a parent or guardian with a release, it seems to me that it makes them realize that there is a danger in the child being shown on the Internet. Well, there is a danger of that but it's extremely minimal, especially if you either only post the child's first name and not the last name at all...or to totally avoid using a name...ie giving an artwork a title like: "Portrait of a Young Lady." I also don't list the child or family's location.

I have on my website that I will use the artwork on my website or promotional materials unless I am asked not to do that. Most of the time, people are honored and excited for the portrait art that they commissioned to be on the website/blog/etc and it's great for an artist when they are excited, because they can proudly send the link to all their friends and family...so it ends up being free advertising for the artist.

But to be perfectly legal, there's nothing wrong with using a release. You might find it easier to form a LLC (Limited Liability Corporation)...especially if you want to do a lot of things with the photos/artwork and you want to protect yourself. I have thought about this but haven't done it yet. If anyone ever has a problem, I would remove the image ASAP and not argue with them, so I feel my risk is extremely small.

I prefer candid photos rather than photographer's photos. With professional photographer's photos, I prefer a release, but I do tend to change the photo by at least 60% from the original image, so I don't think there is a lot of risk there, either.

However, I do avoid drawing celebrities or professional athletes - there's not only the person's image to consider, but also in the case of an NFL player, there would be copyright by the NFL and by the photographers. If I draw an athlete or celebrity, the portrait must be for the client's personal use only and not for reproduction, and I identify it as "fan art." I would advise, if you want to produce art like this for reproduction, definitely get the necessary permissions, and form an LLC.

I hope this helps! Keep in mind I'm not an attorney or anything, I just go by my gut feelings.
Keep in mind that this is just my opinion about how to go about this. Please contact a copyright attorney for further information before taking my advice.

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