Ordinarily, a model release document gives the photographer the right to publish any photos of other property or people. The length of the document can range from a paragraph to a full-blown contract with complex terms and conditions, full details as to the rights of both parties, and the consequences for a breach of the contract. The details of the contract, and the degree of complexity used to draft it, wholly depend on what you and the other parties have agreed to. It’s advisable that you have a contract attorney draw this up for you so that you can make sure it’s legally effective.

Keep in mind, their verbal promise will not be sufficient to hold up in court. A party might tell you over and over again that they permit to the photos being used, but if one party changes his or her mind for no other reason than a change of heart, you’ll struggle to find a legal leg to stand on. The moral of the story: Have everything in writing. Any indication, whether it’s in a formal contract, a casual email or a post-it note – something written is better than nothing. Otherwise it’s your word against theirs, and a court will more often than not decide against the party using the photos without express permission.

Is it compulsory to use a model release?

While there are no precise rules that spell out when a model release is required, in Australia, it is not necessary for photographers to use them. Having said that, if you’re planning on selling or leasing a photo, such as for a magazine, website, catalogue or otherwise, it is required you have a model release to lower the risk.

If, however, your photo is to be used in some sort of educational context, such as in a journal, industry newsletter, newspaper or otherwise, typically a model release won’t be required due to the educational and informative nature of the photo.

What if I sell my photos to a person planning to use them in an educational magazine?

Since you are still planning to sell the photos and make a profit in this manner, you will still have to obtain a model release for this use of the photos.

Are the rules the same if the person is famous?

Does it make a difference if you’re snapping a celebrity or public figurehead? Celebrities, in some cases, have even less of a right to privacy, but, normally, the same rule will apply: If you are providing the photo to a local paper or online columnist as part of a story, you won’t need a model release, but if the photo is being used in advertisements for a business, you will need one.

Where can I get a model release?

The Arts Law Centre of Australia has a model release that you can use that is quite comprehensive. If you’re unsure whether your use of your photos is legal or not, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755 and speak with one of our qualified contract solicitors to get the best quality legal advice at an affordable fixed-fee.

Lachlan McKnight
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