In Model Releases is address a must?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by rox, Feb 27, 2005.

  1. rox


    Is having an address and phone number for a Model Release necessary for it to be legal? I
    am working on a personal fine art project involving adults and I'm wondering what I
    should do if someone will agree to sign a release, but doesn't want to give me their
    personal info.

  2. Roxana,

    Having a person's address and/or phone number is not required to make the Release binding on the person signing the Release. The potential problem you face is more evidentiary in nature.

    As an example, you photograph me and ask me to sign a Release and I do so. However, if I am reluctant to give you my address, I may also be reluctant to give my real name and may sign a false name, e.g., John Smith.

    Although the Release is still binding on me, even though I have signed a false name, a potential problem may arise later from an evidentiary standpoint. Fast forward two years or five years, and I see my photograph in print and, with dollar signs in my eyes, have my lawyer contact you claiming that you are trading on my likeness and, to avoid a lawsuit, why don't you just give me a check for, say $75,000 and I will be happy to sign a settlement agreement with you. Having taken thousands and thousands of images of many street people, you don't remember anything about me, but in checking your carefully cross referenced files, you go to your Release files and find a Release that has been executed by "John Smith" and, figuratively, wave the Release in front of my lawyer, who says that the Release isn't really very impressive, since my name is, say, Joe Jones, and, by the way, if we don't settle this matter within the next 10 business days, that the lawsuit will be filed.

    Made up ? - yes.
    Unlikely? - maybe.
    Plausible - yes!

    Under such a fact pattern, a major, and possibly pivotal question will be, can you convince the jury, or judge if a bench trial, that I am the one who executed the Release. IF YOU CAN, and subject to other unrelated defenses against the validity of teh Release, then the Release is binding on me regardless of whether I signed John Smith, Joe Jones, Mickey Mouse or Dart Vader.

    Don't misunderstand me, I can well understand where a person may be willing to sign a release but may balk at giving their home address. However, suggest that the more information you have to evidence that it was "me" who actually executed your Release, the better your defense to a claim from someone who may have "selective" memory. Suggest that under such circumstances, you obtain, and write down on the release, or an attachment to the Release, any additional information that may help you identify, at a later date, the person who signed your release, e.g., time of day(6:15pm - 6:30pm), exact location (front of Winter Garden Theater, Broadway between 50th and 51st) type of car driven (none), type of work I said I told you I do(engineer), scars (cut scar, about 2", on back hand), where I told you I live (Louisville, KY), jewelry (Rolex watch- not visible in Photo), etc. Also, ask for a business card - again, some are just very reluctant to disclose their HOME address. Suggest also that for the minor investment and inconvenience, there is value in taking a photo of the Release and any attachment(s), contemporaneous with the execution of the Release. In the above scenario, when you can present such information (evidence), plus my knowlege that I was vacationing in Manhattan at that time, it would tend to help me remember that just maybe I did sign a Release and must have just "forgotten" about it.

    Long winded way of saying you want to have as much evidence as reasonably possible to help prove that the person who actually signed your release IS the the person actually depicted in your photograph.

    Best regards,
  3. It would not hurt to take the trouble and find a notary public to "witness" the signature, or a couple of witnesses also sign the release at the time of "that person without a address" signs your model release. Better to be careful -- the dude that had his image used over and over on a coffee jar made a very large $$$$$ settlement.
  4. I have approached this from a different standpoint mainly because of the UK/EU's data protection law(s). Other photographers, however, may find this approach generally useful.

    Models fill out the release pro forma on the front of the page and sign it on the front indicating, also there, that they are competent to sign (their age is over 18). They sometimes use stage names, as well, which will appear on the front as their "identity." Minor releases are also signed on the front by the parent or guardian.

    ALL OTHER identifying and personal contact information is on the BACK of the form under the printed notice that: "This information is confidential and never released except by order of a court"... real name; full birth date; nationality; telephone numbers; address; mailing address (if different); agent's name and contact (if there is an agent involved); ect, ect. Though this information is never released to a client it is still available in the event of "down-the-road" legal questions/problems. If someone calls (e.g. an agent or another client) with more work for the model I pass that information along to the model and let THEM decide if they want to make the contact.

    This solves two problems for me and for the model: 1) When you have to "prove" a release exists to a client you can by sending a copy of the FRONT of the form, though many clients will also accept a declaration that a release has been obtained and is on file without actually seeing it; and, 2) You are not, when you do have to provide a copy to a client, also supplying information that would allow someone to actually be able to find or contact the model directly and in person for good... or for ill.

    The model is required to be advised, and is, of the level of "processing" of the release side of the form (may have to be distributed to clients) as well as the level of "processing" of the personal indentifying information (not released to clients) - the former is openly distributed and the latter, as my policy (though the law does not prohibit the release) is held to be confidential and only released on court order and used for no other purpose than to support the release. This, then, broadly, meets the requirement(s) of the UK/EU data protection law(s) for the management of personally identifying information. It also offers at least a minimal level of protection to the model in a dangerous world and they are likely to agree to sign.

  5. rox


    Thank you!!! That is all very helpful information.

    Roxana Perdue
  6. I've often had the person sign the photo, then the first shot of them is a picture of them
    holding the release. Not bulletproof by any stretch of the imagination, but some little
    insurance anyway.
  7. You could always try asking for DL number and show them that it is all the information besides their name you will be taking down. In the unlikely event that the painted scenario ever hapens, they won't want to be caught with a false ID, since that would put their tails in a vice at that point. So many circles of thought to decide....

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