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Model release

WritersServices Self-publishing

As a general rule, a photograph of a person can be published without their permission (although this does not apply in France). However, if the photograph is to be used for commercial purposes, you need the person's permission. Similar rules apply in most of the world.

A model release form can be simple or complex.

  • You need to identify the photographic setting, rather than each individual shot, the date and obviously the person or people involved.

  • It makes most sense from your point of view if the subject allows you to use the photograph in any context. But the subject might want to impose limits.

  • You might find it easier to obtain permission if you specify the purpose intended within your book but, if this is what you are planning, add the provision that the photo could be used on the cover, to promote the book in publicity material, or on the web.

Remember that you can, in theory at least, libel a living person in a photograph.

  • In practice, most people like to be consulted and you are unlikely to encounter any trouble unless the subject is a celebrity.

  • The process of consultation might be doubly valuable because your subjects might produce other photos or better copies of the old prints you have.

  • If you cannot trace the subjects, make sure you keep some evidence that you tried to find them in case they do object. Due diligence is an effective defence if you ultimately fail to find them but there are problems later.

A model release is mainly a matter of courtesy but if you have asked anybody to pose or to provide a location then get them to give you permission, or they might claim a fee.

The text below might provide the basis of your release or permission form:


I, name of authorising person, give you, your name, and your legal representatives the authority and permission:

  • To enjoy unrestricted right and permission to copyright and use pictures of, name of person or property, in which, description, am/is included.

  • To make a composite or transform the image, copy or reproduce in any media.

  • I also relinquish any right to edit, examine or approve the products or use to which the image is applied.

  • I affirm that I have the right to make this contract.

Their name and signature


To make it legal, you will need some further details and signatures:

  1. Most documents require the date, name, address and signature of the subject and often a witness.

  2. If the subject is a minor, the agreement must be signed on their behalf by an authorised person.

  3. If the subject is giving permission for a location or object, they should note why they have the authority.


Copyright law  Getting permission Clearing copyright Model release





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