A model release is a legal document (liability waiver) signed by a person who is recognizable in a photograph. The release grants permission to publish the photograph in one form or another.
Without a signed model release, photographs containing recognizable individuals are not eligible for commercial use such as promoting a product, service or idea. Commercial publication without a signed model release (even if taken in a public place), can result in civil liability for whoever publishes the photograph.
A witness signature is required if the photo will be made available fore sale by a 3rd party such as stock photography.
- Minors: Model under 18 years old require a minor model release, signed by a parent or legal guardian. If the parent or legal guardian is also the photographer, a different parent or legal guardian must sign as the witness.
- Nudity: Model releases for nude individuals must include a copy of the model’s photo identification with proof that the model is over the age of 21. A model release is required for nudes even if the face is not visible.
- Deceased: Photographs of a deceased individual requires a signed release by the next of kin in the name of the model.
- Self-portraits: If a photographer wants to publish a self-portrait for commercial use, the photographer must sign a model release as both the photographer and the model. A witness signature is required.
When is a model release NOT required?
No model release is required for publication as news or editorial (human interest story) when the person is in a public place.