• Jason Turner

Release for Use of Likeness Basics

Release for Use of Likeness

When you need to use someone's image (for instance, a photograph or video) in a publication, like a newsletter, magazine or website, a Release for Use of Likeness gives you permission from the person in that image.

Use the Release for Use of Likeness document if:

  • You want to use someone's likeness for almost any purpose.

  • Someone wants to use your likeness.

A Release for Use of Likeness is an important way of legally protecting yourself; reproducing the likeness of someone without their permission may be a violation of that person's right, especially if the image is captured in a setting where they would expect privacy (this includes public spaces). In the case of celebrities, the use of likeness without consent may be a violation of trademark rights, so if it doubt, it is a good idea to seek permission with a Release for Use of Likeness. You can specify in the Release for Use of Likeness if this permission is is dependent on payment or not. And if the image is of a minor, or an adult under the care of a guardian, you may need to obtain the permission of the parent and/or guardian. If in doubt, consult a lawyer.

Who You Can Take a Picture Of - Privacy Laws

The Supreme Court has long ruled that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that in your home, you can reasonably expect to be left alone, if you so choose. However, if you go to the park, you’re in a public space and have therefore forfeited at least a part of your “right to privacy.” For photographers, this means a simple thing. If it’s in the public sphere, you can take pretty much any picture. But you can’t very well sit outside the window of a private residence and snap photos.

Use of Likeness and Publicity Laws

Publishing or selling photos, however, has to do with publicity laws and a person’s “likeness.” All of us, famous or otherwise, have the right to protect our likeness. But our likeness simply isn’t a picture of a person. Rather, our likeness, in the legal sense, means a representation of us used to promote ideas, products, services, or things. That distinction is pretty important. If you met a celebrity on the street and asked to take a picture with them, you could actually sell that picture to a newspaper or publication. That celebrity isn’t promoting anything (after all, you aren’t using their likeness to sell sneakers). They’re simply another person, on the street, who posed for a picture. But were you to use that same picture in an advertisement for your website, product, or idea, you’d be violating that person’s use of likeness rights. They didn’t agree to promote your website, product, or idea, so you can’t simply use the picture in any way you see fit.

Use of Likeness Forms and photo release Forms

And that’s where a use of likeness or photo release comes into play. If the photo in question is going to be used to promote a product, service, idea, or thing, a photo release is necessary. This doesn’t simply apply to celebrities either. All of us have a right to protect our likeness from being used against our will. In the real world, think of it like this: say your are a Republican and an photographer took a picture of you smiling at a park. This is a public space and the photographer has that right. But say that photo gets used in an ad for a Democratic candidate. That might not sit well with you. And it shouldn’t. You have a right to select the ideas, products, services, and things your likeness promotes. We all do.

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