Photo Copyright Release Form—How and When To Use It

How many times have you walked around your neighborhood looking for an opportunity to take a picture of that beautiful balcony? Have you ever taken a picture of a stranger without their permission because you thought it would look good on your Instagram feed? 

You might’ve been unaware of this fact, but several rules regulate both taking a picture of someone or something and publishing someone else’s photograph, even if you are on it. 

That is how copyright works, and, in most cases, you can protect your work with copyright notices or copyright claims. When it comes to photography, you can rely on photo copyright release forms to avoid copyright infringement.


What Is a Photo Copyright Release Form?

The U.S. legal system bans photographers from using someone’s image for commercial purposes without their permission. The same goes for their clients since they are not allowed to publish photos without the permission of the photographer. Disobeying these rules can cause serious consequences for both sides.

The photo release form is a legal agreement between the photographer and the client that helps regulate this relationship.

This written permission allows the use of the photo and provides the rights to publish it on media platforms, including:

  • Print
  • Websites
  • Television
  • Social media

Public vs. Private

Taking pictures of someone is full of gray areas, but certain guidelines exist. You are not allowed to take photos of a person if they’re in a private space, including their home, backyard, or car, without permission. Besides that, you cannot take pictures of property or pets in private spaces, without obtaining permission first.

The protection of privacy does not cover public areas. If a person is in a park, cafe, or at the beach, you don’t have to ask for permission to take a picture. 

What you do need permission for, regardless of the situation or person, is taking pictures for commercial purposes.

Types of Photo Release Forms

Depending on who or what is the subject of your photograph, you will need a specific release form. The table below can help you understand what release form suits you best:

Type of Release Form When To Use
Print Print release form grants permission only for printing a photograph.

Most notable printing labs require this permission for printing copies. This way, photographers secure their copyrights and can benefit from selling their work.

Model This type of form is used when the subject of the photograph is an adult person. It states that the model gave consent to the photographer to use their image for commercial purposes.

It also protects the model if the photographer violates their agreement.

Minor U.S. laws don’t allow anyone under 18 years to sign contracts. If you want to use a photo of a minor, you need a parent or legal guardian to sign the permission. In this case, it is advised to use a photo release form, even if you don’t intend to use the image for commercial purposes, to avoid any legal issues that may occur.
Property This type of form is used if you want to publish photos of another person’s apartment, house, garden, or bike. As long as the subject is someone else’s property, and it’s recognizable as theirs, you will need a property release form.

That rule doesn’t refer only to inanimate objects but also to pets. Be aware of that the next time you think of using someone’s Corgi for commercial purposes.

Building No rules or laws can stop you from taking pictures of famous landmarks or iconic places for your pleasure. Photographing them for commercial purposes requires the building release form.

Some of those iconic places are the Louvre, Hollywood Sign, Burning Man Festival locations, and Eiffel Tower, but only at night.

When To Use a Photo Copyright Release Form

Not many professional photographers opt for this type of agreement. By signing it, you transfer all the rights you have to the photograph in question onto the client. So, why use it at all?

Copyright release forms are often used for commercial purposes, and large brands use this form to obtain all the rights and prevent any legal disputes. Since a lot is at stake with this type of agreement, brands and companies are willing to pay a large sum of money. This reason explains why photographers decide to do it.

How To Create a Photo Copyright Release Form

A photo copyright release form is not a standardized document, and photographers have to create their own and notarize it or hire an attorney to approve it.

You can find free templates online or write it on your own by following these instructions:

  1. Use business letterhead paper with your logo, official name of your business, and address
  2. Add the mandatory information such as full name, signature, and the photography studio you work for
  3. Provide the digital file name or film strip identification number and add the description of the photos whose copyright you want to transfer
  4. State who you are transferring the rights to by including their name and address 
  5. Specify whether you want the credit for the photos or not
  6. Hire an attorney to evaluate the document
  7. Have a notary authorize it by placing the notary seal on it

How To Protect Your Photos With DoNotPay

If you find out that a brand, company, or anyone else used your photo without your permission or photo copyright release form, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) got you covered. 

The DMCA offers protection for all kinds of creative digital content, including songs, photographs, and literary works.

When someone publishes your photo without your permission, the way to deal with this issue is to file a DMCA takedown notice. DoNotPay can help you do that hassle-free and in no time!

Open our app in your web browser and follow this step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose the DMCA Takedown feature after logging in
  2. Add the information about your photo
  3. Attach the link to the infringing website
  4. Verify your identity and account info
  5. Click the Sign and Submit button

We will then send the takedown notice on your behalf. You can monitor the progress in the My Disputes tab on our website’s main page and decide on the next steps.

Use DoNotPay To Deal With Other Problems

Your photo copyright can last a certain amount of time, depending on the copyright laws in your country. In most cases, you’re protected at least during your lifetime. This fact doesn’t stop the illegal use of your photos. If your copyright becomes the subject of such violations, we can provide crucial information about image copyright laws to help you deal with the situation.

Learn how to copyright, take down a stolen photo from Google, or handle copyright issues on Facebook and Instagram with our help.

Open DoNotPay in your preferred web browser and resolve your issues one by one!

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