I am a photographer – do I need a Model Release?
If you are a photographer, it is a good idea for you to get the written consent of anyone whose picture you take and intend to sell or use to make money. Getting someone’s verbal consent is not enough. If they change their mind, you could find yourself in hot water, legally. In a case of your word against theirs, courts tend to rule in favour of the person who says that they didn’t give permission for their photograph to be taken.
Once someone signs an agreement giving their written informed consent, the photographer has a right to use that person’s image and the model cannot ask the photographer to destroy the picture. Written agreements are also important in situations where you intend to make money from a photograph because they prevent the person who is the subject of the photograph from seeking money from you.
What should be in a model release agreement?
In Australia there is no hard and fast rule dictating that you must use a model release agreement. However as indicated above, if you intend to sell your pictures, you should make sure that the subject of your pictures has signed an agreement to reduce the risk that they will sue you. Chances are that the publication you sell the images to will require that you have a model release agreement.
If your pictures are going to be used in an educational or informational context, for example in a leaflet, newsletter or news story, you don’t need to have a model release agreement. However if you are selling the photographs to be used in an educational context, you are still making money from them and should have a model release agreement.
A model release agreement can be as simple as an email or a one-paragraph document. Or it can be lengthier and more detailed, specifying the rights of the model and photographer and consequences for breach of contract. It all depends on the needs of the photographer (and the model) and how the photographer intends to use the photographs.