WHAT IS A RELEASE FORM?
A release form is a contractual agreement between the artist and their model or the owner of a property that is depicted in their artwork. Release forms secure legal permission to publish or sell images of such people and/or property. They usually involve one party surrendering the rights to bring a claim against the creator of the artwork in case they intend to sell or publicly make available such artworks.
Releases are routinely used by different kind of artists such as photographers, painters and digital artists, when they depict individuals or recognisable property in their artworks, just to make sure that they have the models’ or property owners’ consent to use the final outcome of such artwork for whatever purpose they need to. This ensures that the copyright owner has a clean chain of title for any work that may be later published, broadcasted or otherwise made public by the artist.
Releases should be drafted by an attorney or advocate, except perhaps in the most routine of situations. If the release is not properly drafted or does not recite any necessary limitations the releasee may find out later that the release did not cover all circumstances, or that it was too general and released some claim, right or entitlement that the releasor should have retained.
WHEN DO I NEED A RELEASE FORM?
One of the most common questions among the members of the art community is “When do I need a release form?”. Unfortunately, the answer to that question depends heavily on the situation and in many cases where you are located, as different countries might have different laws. Some general rules though are that if you’re going to use your images commercially – an artwork is going to be used to sell or promote a product or service - and the subject is recognisable, even when a face is not visible, you need a release form. Even for street photography in many cases, you will require a release.
You don’t normally need to have a release form only if the subject or location are unidentifiable or cannot be identified beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, if the artwork is solely going to be used for editorial purposes – when an artwork is used to illustrate an article or in an educational context - and since such artworks are not going to be used to sell or promote anything, you will not require a release form.
TYPES OF RELEASE FORMS
There are two types of releases that you may require according to the subject of your artwork.
Model Release: is the required permission from the identifiable person or people in your artwork;
Property Release: is the required permission from the official owner of the property or product in your artwork. This also includes intellectual property such as trademarks, logos, landmarks, works of art etc.
You can easily find plenty of templates online but we would not recommend using any of them, including the samples you will find following this document before you contact a lawyer and make sure that each one is legally binding for the exact purposes you want to use them for.
When personalising release forms, for each model or property, make sure to be specific. Detail all information about what session it is about, the artworks, date and location that the release pertains to. And keep in mind, always send the document to be signed to all parties well in advance in order to give them sufficient time for review.
Although the need for a model or a property release is often straightforward, sometimes that need falls into a grey area. So, when in doubt, you always should get a release or contact an attorney just to be on the safe side.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this document, and the sample templates that are attached, is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to act as your guide. Please consult a lawyer for any legal matters as release forms’ required content may vary by situation, country, provinces, and districts.