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Photography Question 
Misty Fritz

Model Release Forms for Repeat Subjects

For the last couple years, I have been taking portraits of friends, relatives, and some of the children I babysit. I have taken several sets of photos of some of these subjects, but I have not gotten them (or their parents, where applicable) to sign a release form. I have recently been going back through my photos and there are several that I would like to use (in a portfolio and in photo contests). Getting releases will not be a problem, but my question is this:
If a subject signs a release form for me once, does that one form cover ALL photos I have taken or will take of him/her, in the past, present, and future, or do I have to get each subject to sign a separate release form for each photo session?

I just want to have my bases covered, just in case. Thank you!

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1/6/2006 11:02:40 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings; The answer is generally no. Model releases are specific for shoot date and subject photographed and they are, for all intent and purposes, a contract, with some form of consideration, granting you as the photographer, the right to use the specific images taken on that date for whatever purpose (other than pornographic or defamatory, of course).
You could cook up an agreement or release covering multiple shoot dates, but again, it needs to be specific with dates and a shoot reference, if any. Say for example, "park shoot" or "_____beach shoot" AND to be enforceable, sufficient consideration to cover all the images and dates you're looking to cover. That can become quite confusing as memories fade. Best thing to do is specific release for specific date rather than batch releases.

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1/7/2006 10:21:07 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
if you email me I will send you release forms for both minors and adults.
I hope it will help,

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1/7/2006 10:51:34 AM

Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  Many elementary schools have a yearly release they have parents sign. It simply states that many times there are people photographing different events and activities at the school throughout the school year, and your child may be photographed. These photos may be used in school literature, or even published in local newspapers or city literature. There's a check box to agree, or a check box to disallow the usage of any photographs, sign at the bottom, and return.

I'm sure there has to be some sort of time frame, especially so that people may opt out of the "contract" insteading of giving permission for life, but you shouldn't need one for each and every click of the camera if you do it that way. Especially if it's people you know, and you're not charging for the photos. If it's work for hire, then I would suggest to get a separate model release for each event or shoot date.

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1/10/2006 2:19:33 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well Michelle, there are some problems with your response. First, if it's work for hire (which has to be in writing signed before the assignment) then Misty doesn't own the copyright and as a general rule, can't use any of the images created under that agreement without written consent of the party that hired her. And if she doesn't turn in all her work, unless there are specific written provisions to the contrary, that's generally a breach of the work for hire agreement.

As to the blanket releases parents sign for their kids and elementary schools, personally I've never seen one quite like that. Moreover, I doubt the utility and the enforceability by the photographer of that kind of release for a number of reasons. It's so general as it could be applied to any photographer in the world. A model release should be specific as to the photographer; the event planner needs to know who the photographers are in advance in order to fill-in the blanks BEFORE not after the fact.

In addition, since some parents can opt out of authorizing photography, how then does the photographer know who they should / could or cannot photograph unless you gather all the non-released kids and put them on one side of the field and the released kids on the other and tell the photographer accordingly.

One way to circumvent that requirement is assuming the school knows in advance that they will have a photographer, they (the school) may post a prominent sign at the entrance to the event that tells people who enter that they are impliedly consenting to be photographed and to have those photos published. And entry is considered sufficient contractual consideration for the release.

This is common at concerts and other large events, but once again, only a limited number of photographers (including news media)are specifically permitted to work a given event (for a number of reasons besides this) and the people in charge know who they are. Getting a letter from the school under such circumstances, i.e., that by entering the venue, people attending the event granted implied consent to be photographed, should suffice as a general release.

Whether there is compensation in the form of prints, doesn't enter into the equation. And again, unless the photographer can identify by name all the recognizable people in a particular photograph, then [s]he doesn't know who signed a release and who needs a print to be compensated for.

If the work at some point is published in any manner or form, including the ones you suggested, even if it's a news event like a high school football game, there should be some release that applies to the photographer. Would someone gripe about an unreleased photo of their kid scoring a touchdown being printed in the local paper? Not likely. But the point is if it wasn't released specifcally for the photographer who shot it, then technically, it shouldn't have been published. The way to handle that is to get the coach to have all the kids parents (kids less than 18) to sign a release for a particular game or series of games. If someone refuses then the coach can just say don't photograph number 21 or whomever.

As to the time a release for a minor is in effect, it's usually in effect until the kid reaches their 18th birthday plus whatever the period is limiting actions generally involving invasion of privacy and defamation. In California, that's two years after they turn 18.

Okie dokie?

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1/10/2006 6:51:48 PM

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