Model Release Form, Model Release Agreement, Talent Release Form, Talent Release Agreement, or any other types of release forms or agreements that you can think of. What are they, and why do you need them?… Or DO you even need them at all? Well, the short answer is that these forms (agreement contracts actually) are legally binding contracts that is signed by both parties (artiste and artist) to indicate that the artiste agree to allow the artist the use of their likeness in any commercial venture, and that the artiste willingly relinquish all claims for future compensation from profits that may or may not result in a commercial application of the image(s) of the artiste… Pretty long for a short answer, eh?
So, do you really need them at all? Well, that question is a little vague right now. We’ll come back and explore this question towards the end of this article. In the mean time, take a look at the sample of the form below.
What’s The Purpose Of The Release Form In The First Place?
So why exactly do we want to tie ourselves down to a piece of paper that basically says “Go ahead and sell the photo of me to your client. And when you make a profit out of selling it, I won’t dispute any claims on a share of your profit”.
There will be no problem what-so-ever if the photo shoot session isn’t intended for any commercial use. Think of a fun shoot, where both photographer and model enjoy themselves, doing what they like doing best. In this case, you don’t need a release form at all, since there’s no intention to sell the resulting images to any clients, making it into a commercial (and profitable) venture.
But the argument arises when money comes into play. Well, doesn’t all arguments start this way?… The artist (photographer, advertising agency, production house, stylist, art director, etc.) will hire an artiste (model, talent, actor, singer, etc.) to do a particular job (pose for a photo, act for a video, etc.) with the intention of selling the finished product to a paying client.
When the resulting finished product is released, and becomes successful commercially, the image of the artiste becomes a valuable commodity. And the tendency of the artiste (or their agents) to claim a share in the profits suddenly becomes very real. So to prevent this eventuality from happening, the artist will engage an artiste only if the artiste agree to sign the release form, and relinquish all claims to the resulting commodity (regardless if it becomes valuable or not later on).
Is That Piece Of Paper Even Legally Binding?
Whether or not the artiste agrees to work for a compensation (a fixed modelling fee, a promised share of the profit, or the resulting fame from the engagement with the artist) or not, it is usually never indicated in the release form. What’s mentioned is only that the artiste relinquish all claims on the resulting finished product. Just think of it as the artist getting a guaranteed peace of mind. He or she knows that his or her investment in creating the works of art based on the artiste will not be disputed later on.
That being said, is the artiste being short changed? Is the artiste being bullied by the artist?… No, not at all. Quite the contrary actually. The artiste is normally paid an agreed amount for the job, regardless whether the resulting finished product will become successful commercially or not. This is a guaranteed payment (whether in cash or in kind). The artist, on the other hand, won’t have the benefit of a guaranteed payment at the end of the day. So it’s technically sort of a gamble actually. Therefore, the artiste always end up with a better deal, don’t you think?
So Do You Actually Need A Release Form At All?
So coming back to the earlier question – Do you actually need a release form then? Well, if you don’t intend to make it into a commercial venture, then you can do without them. But you can never be too sure what will happen in the future. You may want to sell your image to a client who intends to use it in a billboard advertisement, right?
So better to err on the side of caution. Always insist on getting a release form signed before proceeding to do any shoots.