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Model Release for video - U.S. Laws?

Discussion in 'Photos and Video' started by lgeist, Jan 25, 2014.

  1. lgeist

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    I have a question for the professional photgraphers out there concerning U.S. laws:

    When is a "model release" or "property release" required when shooting stills or video from my Phantom? Are the rules the same for photo and video? And I know this is wishful thinking, but suppose I post a video on YouTube and it eventually becomes popular enough to become an ad-paying video and I start collecting revenue, is it now being used "commercially"?

    I've researched this question on the web before coming here and have found many different answers, some as clear as mud. Any help or web links would be appreciated!

    LG
     
  2. HeliRy

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    Model releases can be a bit of a grey area. One truth you can live by is that if your photo or video is to be used for editorial purposes, then no model release is needed for people or property. Think of editorials as being a general photo you might see associated with a newspaper article.

    If the photo/video is strictly commercial, then you need a release for every single identifiable person in it. You are setting out to make money off that person indirectly, so you need their permission. Even if the person isn't the main focus of your shot and just part of the background, you need a release if their face can be identified. An easy way around this with photos is to mask or clone them out completely, or use different combinations of blur and dodge/burn to make the face unrecognizable... without making them look like monsters lol.

    When I'm out shooting I usually carry a business card around and a couple of model releases. That way if I get a shot I think I can use, I can ask them to sign a release. I give my card with a promise of a full sized copy of the photo free of charge, and their expressed cooperation not to violate my copyright by trying to sell it themselves. I'm new to video though so not sure how I'd go about it.

    Lots of people also get their feathers ruffled by simply having their photo taken in pubic. It's good to know your rights as a photographer/videographer. Especially when the police get involved.... as very few know what legal rights the person holding the camera has. Thankfully, the law is on our side most of the time:

    - If you are standing on pubic property.... everyone and everything is fair game. You do not need their permission to photo/video them. They can even ask you to stop, but you aren't legally bound to do so in pubic. But use discretion of course.
    - If you are on pubic property, you can photograph private property and anyone within it. But you cannot sell the images/video without a release. Again use discretion, no one like a creep with a camera photographing their house from the street lol.
    - If you are on private property, you can shoot anyone/anything you want if you have the owners permission to be there. However the owner can tell you to stop... and you must if that happens. This is the one time the public outranks you in terms of rights. Like I said you are free to shoot anyone you want to without their expressed permission in a private setting. But if they ask you to cease, you must comply. Standard model release rules apply.

    However, all these rules can be trumped by posted signage banning photography. Whether in pubic or private, the sign is the law regardless of whether it's a civil bylaw, or a sign nailed to a tree by whoever.

    Hope that helps!
     
  3. FSJ Guy

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    You should really talk to a lawyer about this.
     
  4. Fair Game

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    Don't waste your time with a lawyer, HeliRy has got it nailed in one.

    Just put yourself in the other persons shoes - If someone took a picture of you or your house and it turned up in a commercial without consent you would be saying "I want paying for that".

    Couple of years ago a small yacht was featured in a McDonalds ad and quite rightly the owners were non too happy that their boat was being featured without their permission. Guess what, they also turned out to be vegetarians and wouldn't even take a belated payment! The ad had to be scrapped at much expense.

    The big question at the moment is when will the FAA, the UK CAA and other aviation regulatory bodies start to fine people for talking commercial aerial photos under the guise of a hobbyist?
     
  5. iResq

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  6. HeliRy

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    Also a note about copyright as it kinda falls into the topic.

    Regardless of who owns the camera, who set up the shot, who hired the models, who owns the UAV.... legally the owner of any photo and video is the sole person who hit the shutter to take the shot. Not really an issue with a Phantom as there probably aren't many (if any?) dual-operator set ups out there. But if you're flying a larger quad/hex/octo with a dedicated person to fly the camera and one to fly the bird, the person "flying" the camera is the legal owner of that copyright.

    So if you're using a two-person set up, just be aware. If it's a friend helping out, you better have a ton of faith in that person if he/she is the one taking the shots and you're the one flying the aircraft. It also means that if a copyright ever gets called into question, or the legality of how that shot was take.... it falls onto the lap of the camera operator and not the one flying the drone.

    If you're dotting all your i's and crossing every T to make yourself fully legal and legit for hire, it's best to hash out in writing with your camera operator who owns what and who is legally on the hook. Then get it notarized so both your butts are covered and there can be no finger pointing if a lawyer ever has to get involved.
     
  7. dkatz42

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    The rules on aerial photography of private property are not so clear cut. An acquaintance of mine created http://www.californiacoastline.org and ended up being sued by Barbara Streisand for $50M after her lawyers spotted pictures of her house among the tens of thousands on the web site (and after he told them where to put the cease-and-desist letter). It didn't work out well for Streisand; she had to pay his legal costs and the offending pictures got millions of views instead. Click the "About the Streisand Lawsuit" link on the left side for more info.

    I think part of the failure of the lawsuit came from the fact that the photos were taken from publicly-navigable airways (and the fact that the photos are for noncommercial use). Of course, the logic of treating your Phantom as a legal aircraft (presuming this is part of the requirement) brings a whole bunch of issues...

    It will be interesting to see how it all falls out.
     
  8. HeliRy

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    Oh good point about real estate, I didn't really touch on that one.

    Public real estate is fair game, like sporting venues, bridges, harbours, etc. Private property though is another hotly contested grey area. Even if shot from public property (a street or from the air) it can still be contested if the photos/video is sold commercially. As you point out with the Streisand case.... even the best lawyers cannot protect private property owners from shots taken via public property.

    However, such is not the case had it been the architect of the property filing the suit. An architect and the firm they work for has every right to file suit for commercial use of their propert without their consent. Even if it's just a photo or video of it. While it's rare that a firm would bother with a suit over such small potatoes as a single set of photos or video of their copyrighted design being used... it has happened in the past. I shoot a lot of stock photography and every year the industry rules regarding buildings gets tighter and tighter. It goes beyond buildings too. A huge seller in stock photography used to be aerial images of cruise ships.... till the nautical engineering firms who designed the ships started suing the agencies selling images of their vessels. Want to sell images of a Porsche 911 without their permission? Great.... have fun if/when they sue you into the Stone Age for it.

    These rules only apply though if the subject is the main composition of the shot. If it's in the background and not the main focus of your shot then you're fine. I've sold aerial images of downtown Vancouver which had many copyrighted buildings that cannot be used in commercial imagery. But I sell them just fine as they are either in the background, or part of the city skyline and not the main subject of my shot.

    But when it comes to copyright, nothing has become the bane of my existence more than logos. Unless you have written permission from the logo/company owner, you can't sell images with identifiable logos in them. Even if it's part of the background and not the main focus of the shot, thou shall not have commercial photos or video containing ANY logos. The only exception is editorial use, in which case have at 'er.

    Even with the GoPro's 12mp sensor you can pick up a staggering amount of identifiable logos in shots. Thankfully with photos you can clone them out easy enough, though it's highly time consuming. It's not uncommon for me to spend hours cleaning up a single photo to rid it of logos. I hate it, but it can be well worth the time and effort.