Pet pictures legal usage rights question

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by peter_michelena|3, Jan 8, 2018.

  1. I’m a professional photographer and Pit-Bull rescue advocate. I invited rescued Pit-Bull owners to bring their dogs to my studio for a free photo-shoot for book of Pit-Bull headshots. They were all told that’s what it was for and they all received a substantial set (12-24) of edited images in digital form, in exchange for their participation. I didn’t think I should require model releases, because the subjects are not people. Plus I didn’t charge the owners, who did receive valuable consideration. Am I wrong? Do I need a release to use the images for a commercial purpose like a book or merchandising? Thanks
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It may depend where you work. (i.e. country /state etc), yet as a general comment, you probably will require a release to use the images for "Commercial Purposes".

    In my situation, I would require a release to use images of 'property'. In my situation the dog owners "own" the dogs, therefore I would require a "Property Release" (that is NOT a 'Model Release', but the wording is similar).

    Also you need to inquire exactly what "Commercial Purposes" means: again, only speaking from my situation, images used in 'a book' may not necessarily be "Commercial Purposes".

    For responses tailored to your situation, more information is required from you.


    This has little, if anything, to do with "legal copyright question" and I have changed the conversation's title to reflect a more accurate overview of the question
    peter_michelena|3 likes this.
  3. Thanks, William. I’m in Los Angeles, CA. By commercial use, I mean if Iwanted to license the images for use on other things like apparel, or a calendar, etc. Also, I tried to change the title of the posting, realizing it was inaccurate, but was unable to. I appreciate your doing that for me
  4. Also, I want to emphasize that I was not paid and the dog owners did receive valuable compensation in form of edited images. There was a verbal agreement that I would be using the pictures in a book. Does that matter or do I still need a property release from the owner of the dog?
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Not 100% sure of USA law, yet I reckon you will require a release to use those images 'for commercial purposes'. The USA laws in these matters are very similar to ours in AUS (or from your point of view Australian Laws are similar to USA laws)

    (in AUS) The facts that the dog owners received compensation for providing the dogs for the shoot and that you were not paid would be irrelevant: so too would be the fact that they agreed by word of mouth for you to use the images "in a book" - this last technical point being they might have agreed to "use of images in a book", but that is not an agreement for carte blanche "Commercial Use" (you mentioned 'to license the images for use on other things like apparel, or a calendar, etc'). and anyway word of mouth agreements are difficult to bring forward as a 'document' if things do get messy - it ends up being "he said vs. I said".

    From a business perspective, you could weigh up the expected reaction (if any) by the dog owners if you proceed without seeking written documentation from them: if they are on good terms with you likely they would not mind you using the images for possible financial gain- - or possibly they would not know the law anyway, the other side of that argument is - IF they are on good terms with you they would likely not mind providing a signature on a release document, anyway.

    In any case this situation is an example of employing the practice of having a set of (blank) release documents in the camera bag - I don't suggest that every snapshot needs use of a release form, but certain situations stick out as possible 'commercial use ideas' which could be employed later down the track; any "set of" images (such as a series of dogs) lends itself to the idea of a calendar, or a set of coffee mugs, etc.

    There are knowledgeable, working pro photographers on this forum, who work in the USA: I trust one or two will clarify, confirm or correct my comments.


    PS - no problem changing the title for you - good luck with the venture
  6. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    i dont think you need a release since a verbal agreement is as good as a contract.
    these are the elements of a contract.....

      • offer
      • Acceptance of the offer
      • Consideration or something of value that each of the parties agree to give to exchange to complete the contract
    [as long as you can show these elements, you have a valid verbal contract.
    to better solidify your burdon of proof, use emails or texts where they agreed to the conditions.
    id be more specific with usages. you can still do that via emails n texts.

    since pn doesnt show your location, im assuming you are USA.
    laws vary by location.

    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
  7. A verbal agreement is not worth the paper it is printed on.
    Start getting written releases as part of the shoot. Will make it much easier moving forward.

    As far as the book project you are probably OK. Check with an IP attorney to be somewhat safe. That said Nussenzweig v. DiCorcia - Wikipedia is worth checking out.

    Image of a gentleman in public used in a book. No release at all. Judge found for the Photographer as it is Art/Editorial.

    Be safe and get a release signed in the future.

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