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Photo Releases: When Do You Need Them?


In the process of documenting what happens in your business, or at your business functions, you may understandably want to take pictures. And when you do, you may want to use those pictures for any number of reasons, on any number of different kinds of platforms.

But those pictures have people in them—people who may not even be aware that you have taken, and are using, their picture. So when do you need an actual signed photo release to use a picture that has people in it?

Commercial and Non Commercial Uses

As a general rule, if you take a picture of people in a public place, and you are only taking the picture for your own use, you do not need a release. The mere act of taking a picture with someone in it, doesn’t require any kind of release.

The same applies for anything that is actually newsworthy, or which is being published in connection with an actual news article.

Practically however, most businesses don’t take pictures for pleasure or to report hard news—they take them to post on social media or websites or marketing material or advertisements.

If you intend to use the picture for profit, then you do need a signed release form from anybody in the photo.

What is “Profit?”

By “profit,” that doesn’t mean you’re actually selling the picture or making money off of it, directly. So long as you use the picture in anything that directly or indirectly makes you money—such as on your social media page, or in an advertisement that you run—the picture is being taken for profit, and a signed release is needed.

Essentially, any kind of commercial use of a person’s picture, will require a release.

Property & Minors

The release doesn’t just extend to people—property owned by someone still needs a release. So, for example, if you took a picture of someone’s vintage car, or their cool looking house, or their cute dog—you still need a release from the owner.

The same holds true for minors; a signed release from parents is necessary to use pictures with minors in them.

Third Parties and Copyright

And before you say “I’ll just use a picture someone else took,” remember that pictures are protected by copyright—so even if someone else takes the picture, and even if they had a release, unless you have permission, you could be violating copyright by using their photo.

What Goes in a Release?

A photo release should, of course, have the name of whomever is having their picture taken. The release should also clearly say that photos may be used for promotional materials marketing, or even for profit.

Remember to obtain a release not just for a photo—but for manipulations, versions, or representations of the photo, or for the general likeness of the subject being photographed.

Call the West Palm Beach business lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help with your business’ legal problems or questions.




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