What is a Model Release?

Are you ready for Atlanta Trademark Lawyer Robert J. (“Jeff”) Veal (the other Ragin’ Cajun)? I ask the Q’s, he gives the A’s. You should listen up. Why? Jeff Veal is a 30 year veteran of intellectual property law, having counseled thousands of

Attorney Robert Jeff Veal

Attorney Robert Jeff Veal

clients on patents, copyrights, and trademarks. His trademark practice alone has encompassed clients in almost every commercial endeavor, and has brought him before several Federal and State Courts across the U.S. of A. Don’t want some scrub to steal your pictures? Trying to keep the wedding chapel down the street from using your logo? Jeff is the man to call. But before you call him, read what he has to say first.

QUESTIONI’m a wedding photographer. Is having a ‘model release’ from the client the same thing as owning the copyright to an image with that client?

ANSWER (from Attorney Robert Veal): No.  A model release from a person appearing in an image and ownership of the copyright are based on two separate rights.  A model release form typically grants the person’s permission for you to use their likeness as appearing in the image, thus it is a contract between you and them granting you that permission.  Ownership of the copyright in the image comes into existence by operation of law as soon as the image is captured and the “author” owns the copyright irrespective of what is in the image.  The author may be the individual who took the picture or his employer if the picture was taken in the course of the individual’s employment.  Thus, a portrait studio would be considered the author of the images taken by its employees.  The subjects in images would have no copyright interest in the images and must negotiate with the author for reproduction and other use of the images.


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