Do you Need a Model Release for Website Photos?

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If you have a photo of a discernible face published on a blog or website, then you may need a “model release form” signed by the person depicted in the photograph (also known as “the model”).

A model release form is basically a permission form from the model indicating their permission for you to use their photograph and/or likeness on your site.  You can find an example form that you can use on the American Society of Photographers website.

If you are the person who took the photograph, then you are the copyright owner by default.  If you are not the person who took the photograph, then you generally cannot use the photo.  That is unless you have gotten permission or if the photo is labeled as public domain or one of the various Creative Commons Licenses.

Therefore in general, you simply cannot search on the web for photographs and use them.  Even if you are the photographer or have the copyrights to the photo, you may still need a model release form in order to publish that photo online.  You still need to consider the privacy of the person in the photo. Consider the possibility that the person in the photo may not want their picture displayed all over the Internet.

Article on the American Society of Media Photographers website says …

“Although the laws of the 50 states vary, all states recognize that individuals have a right to be let alone in their daily lives and that harm (in the form of embarrassment, scorn or loss of status) can result if that right is violated.”

Therefore to be safe from possible liabilities, it is good to have a model release form signed from the model.

What Wikipedia says at the time of this writing is …

“Whether or not publishing a photo via the internet requires a release is currently being debated in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals … most legal advisors now argue that any photo of a person for which a signed model release does not exist leaves a publisher susceptible to civil action…”

Note: Author is not a legal expert.  Content is opinion at the time of writing and is not considered professional advice. Content consists of broad generalizations and may not be applicable to your particular case. Seek legal counsel as needed.