Release forms protect everyone involved in a project by outlining the rights and obligations of each party before it gets underway.
Don’t underestimate the importance of release forms, they could save the day and allow you to safely swerve any legal battles. This will allow you to focus on what’s most important to you - creating.
Take notes and bare in mind that this is just friendly advice, I’m a writer, not a lawyer!
What is a release form?
A release form is a legal document used to obtain permission from a subject or model to use their image commercially. It is a widely used document throughout the creative industry as it is a legal requirement to obtain signed consent from individuals who feature in your work.
A release form aims to protect both the creative and the subject by outlining the rights being granted, any limitations on the use of the images and compensation being paid.
As you can imagine there could be several difficult situations if you don't have the appropriate release forms...
Why do you need a release form?
We like to think of release forms as pain relief, they can save you from a bunch of headaches.
It's essential to enforce a release form any time you wish to collaborate with a third party to complete a project. They act as legal protection for everyone involved.
For the subject of the project, a release form ensures that they are not depicted or represented in a way that they do not agree with.
Using someone's likeness without consent can have serious complications. So from a legal standpoint, a signed release form also protects the photographer or filmmaker from violating the rights of their subject.
With all parties clearly understanding their rights and obligations, a release form will prevent any misunderstandings or legal disputes. Ultimately, saving you time… and headaches.
Aside from legal protection, there are a few other ways that release forms can benefit you:
If one of your subjects dislikes their portrayal in your content, then they may request that their likeness, footage, or voice be removed from the project. This would complicate things and you could be forced to re-edit or even delete entire sections of your work.
A signed release form defends you from such situations as terms are agreed upon by both parties ahead of time.
But what if you don't initially intend to use the project commercially?
A signed release form also gives you options for future use should you wish to reuse your work for that ad campaign you have the perfect shots for.
As we’re sure you know, the creative industry moves at a lightning pace, an opportunity can come at any moment, and a release form gets you ahead of the game!
Last but certainly not least, providing clients with a release form before a project helps to establish professionalism and build those all-important network relations.
Types of release forms
There are many different types of release forms out there, each with its own use case. The specific form used depends on the project context and the type of information you wish to release.
Here are the most commonly used release forms in the creative industry:
Photo release forms
If you're intending to use a photo of someone in your next ad campaign, then it is a legal requirement to obtain their permission beforehand. Failure to do so could end in a nasty lawsuit.
A photo release form is a legal document to obtain permission from a subject to use their image commercially. This protects the rights of both parties and keeps everyone on the same page.
Be transparent with your intentions and the purpose of your work, ambiguity at this stage could spell trouble as without a signature from both parties, you would not be legally permitted to use your work.
Find a photo release form template here.
Location release forms
Similarly to a photo release form, it is a legal requirement to obtain a property owner's permission before releasing any content from within their space commercially. Regardless if you are shooting a how-to recipe or a music video. That’s where a location release form comes in.
This permits the filmmaker or photographer to show an identifiable piece of private property on screen and must be signed by the property owner.
Ensure it is the property owner who signs the release. A signature from someone who does not own the rights; such as a renter, will expose all parties along with your content to legal risks.
Find a location release form template here.
Model release forms
If you’re considering hiring a model for your next project then don’t forget to use a model release form.
Much like photo releases, a model release form is a legal agreement between the photographer and a model to release their likeness for commercial purposes. This is required any time you plan on releasing a recognisable image of the model for profit.
Ask yourself if they can be identified in the photo. Characteristics like hairstyles, tattoos and of course, facial features give away an individual's identity, thus the need for a signed release.
Agree on crediting terms ahead of time so you both know what to expect from the outcome. Ie. clients to credit the model's name or IG any time their photo is used.
With model photoshoots, it is not often the photographer that publishes the photos. In this case, the release form must specify that the photos can be licensed to third parties for commercial usage.
Find a model release form template here.
We may have highlighted the most common release forms used in the creative world, but be sure to further familiarise yourself so you know the most suitable option to best protect you and your work.
Contents of a release form
Since photo release forms are such widely used documents throughout the creative industry, there is plenty of resources for you to use and adapt for your own production needs. Simply find a suitable template online, or use the one we have kindly provided you here.
Once you have the template, adjust it according to your project specifications and the legal regulations of your region.
BEAZY TIP: Save a release form template to your computer or cloud storage for easy access any time you need to produce one for a client.
With the abundance of resources that can be found online, there is little need to bore yourself by writing one from scratch.
However, If you do wish to create your own release form for a larger project, there are a few key components that must be included to ensure its legal viability:
Full names, addresses and contact information of all parties involved.
Details about the production project
Define and describe the purpose of the images or footage you wish to release, as well as the date and location of the shoot.
Rights and limitations
Insert all rights you wish to be granted by the subject or model. This should include your rights to distribute photos/ footage commercially via mediums of your choice.
Also, outline any limitations or restrictions on the use of captured images or footage.
Include any information regarding payment obligations, royalties or crediting agreements that act as compensation for the use of images.
Space for signatures and date
Allow space for the date and signature of all parties to indicate that they have read and agreed to all terms of the release form. The releasor must be 18+ years of age or be represented by a parent or legal guardian.
Ensure you are extra thorough when creating a release form, conduct the necessary legal research or consider consulting a professional.
And since every creative project is unique, customise each release form to fit all parties' specific requirements - one size does not fit all.
Be nice to your client and keep the release form short, sweet and concise, with the consensual terms simple to understand. Avoid using any complicated legal jargon as this could scare them off before you get started.
You’ll be happy to hear that’s everything you need to know about release forms. Take the time to create one before you begin any project, this way you’re covered and have the legal right to share your hard work with the world.
With that said, why not check out our ever-growing list of creatives available to hire on our platform to kick-start those dream projects of yours?
And if you ever have any doubts or queries, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d be happy to help.