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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Model Release Forms (Part 2)

I've been doing more research on model release forms and came across a lot of information that wasn't included in my original post about this topic. To modify what I originally wrote, not ALL photo shoots will have release forms for you to sign. If you get booked a gig by your agent, the client may or may not provide a model release form.

Usually that paperwork is handled with the agency beforehand so a release may not be necessary. Sometimes your agent will request that you not sign anything once you get on-set--this guarantees that the client will not add any last minute changes that may cause conflict. Always follow what your agent tells you.

For you freelance models, there may be times when you shoot with a photog who doesn't require a model release form. If you are fine with that, there should be no problems, as long as the two of you arrange it so that you do get your images, payment (if any), etc. If a photog does not have a release for you to sign that isn't always a bad thing.

However, always read everything on any model release form you sign. This is especially a must when it comes to working on projects that are being submitted for publication. This is where things can get tricky. When you sign a model release, you as the model are giving up your rights to your images and they become sole property of the photographer. You do have the option to buy the copyright of the images but most photographers charge a lot for that and it is rare that a model will buy his/her own copyrights.

I read about a situation a model was involved in where she did a shoot with a photograher for possible publication on the cover of a CD for a group that was represented by a well known record label and would be sold in stores. The photographer told the model that if her image ended up getting published and sold well, he would track her down later to sign paperwork regarding payment, percentage of profits, etc.

Well, she did not hear back from the photographer for a few months and assumed her work did not make the cut. Well, months later she ran into the photographer who told her that her images did, in fact, make it onto both the front and back of the CD, which was already being sold in stores by the record label.

Unfortunately, he never brought her any paperwork to ensure her piece of the pie and she has lost contact with the photographer, who apparently has now fallen off the face of the Earth.

Two things to note here:

One) in a sense, she did right by NOT signing a model release. Chances are, if she didn't read the fine print, she most likely would have been giving up her rights to the images and not be allowed to make any money off of the number of CDs sold. Sometimes signing a model release can actually hurt your chances of making a profit off of your images...but like I said, this is where things can get sticky and really confusing as to what you should do.

Two) Because she did not sign a release form and was not properly notified by the photographer or the record label, she can stand to make a large amount of money by taking both the photog and the record label company to court. She will have to hire an entertainment lawyer to handle the case. She will most likely win because she was completely left out of a business deal that should have included her in the first place. So if the CD sells really well, she'll stand to make a killing. If the CD ends up flopping, then she is no worse off than before.

When it comes to dealing with signing contracts for large gigs, be wary and read through every single line of the release before you sign. If there is no release to be signed, just be aware of the possible situations that may arise if your images happen to be published. If you are not sure what to do if you find yourself in this situation, seek legal advice from an entertainment lawyer or someone in the field of law who knows what they are talking about.

Models with agency representation rarely have to worry about anything like this happening to them so for the freelance models, always watch your back. Because the legalities of binding contracts vary so much case to case, there is no exact do or don't that will apply to everything so evaluate each shoot and any paperwork involved and treat each situation individually so you are guaranteed to benefit no matter what.