View Full Version : Model releases?

03-19-1999, 09:19 AM
[I don't know whether this is the right place is to post this question. Perhaps others here can suggest whether there might be a better place.]

I like to draw or paint figures and portraits. Sometimes I work from photos in books or magazines, soetimes I work from models in life studios. My style is very realistic, not abstract.

Several people have complemented me on my work and suggested that I put my works up on my webpage. But I'm nervous about the legalities.

In photography you can't publish (even on the web) any photo of a recognizable person without obtaining a signed model release from them. This would be especially an issue if the subject were a nude. But I see artists putting drawings of life models from their classes or life studios on the web all the time! And I've never seen one indicate that they have a model release for it. Some have told me that the rule doesn't apply to drawing and painting but I've talked to several models who've told me that they would be OUTRAGED if someone put a drawing of them on the web!

I've also seen plenty of artists put up drawings or paintings done from photos in magazine or books. They acknowledge this but there's no indication that they have received any sort of permission from the copyright holder to do so.

The courts have recognized that parody and certain journalistic uses are protected speech, but otherwise individuals own the legal rights to the use of their own likeness and copyright-holders own the use of their photos. As a photographer I'm much more familiar witrh this issue in photography; I'm looking for guidance as to how this is interpreted in painting and drawing.

Rose Queen
01-30-2007, 01:59 PM
Hi! I've moved your post to the forum with the expertise on your question.

01-30-2007, 03:01 PM
I know legally you can not publish(post to the web) images you have painted from photos in books or in magazines without permission as it does break copyright laws and sets yourself up for a lawsuit. It doesn't matter that others are doing it, can you afford a lawsuit? Even if the image is done in parody doesn't mean they can't attempt to sue.

Publishing without a model release I'm unclear of the legalities but frankly I wouldn't do it. Upset your models you will find you no longer will have models to paint/draw/sculpt from. Nude models put their trust in the artist to do right by them, break that trust word will get around. Legally I know you can't sell stock photos or illustrations of a recognizable person without a model release but how that relates to fine art I'm unclear.

01-31-2007, 03:40 PM
Like everything in Life, It Depends...

In this case, it depends on where the images are posted, and whether or not Fair Use guidelines are applicable...
From Stanford University's (http://www-sul.stanford.edu/) explanation of "Fair Use" determinations:
1. The purpose and nature of the use.
If the copy is used for teaching at a non-profit institution, distributed without charge, and made by a teacher or students acting individually, then the copy is more likely to be considered as fair use. In addition, an interpretation of fair use is more likely if the copy was made spontaneously, for temporary use, not as part of an "anthology" and not as an institutional requirement or suggestion.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
For example, an article from a newspaper would be considered differently than a workbook made for instruction. With multimedia material there are different standards and permissions for different media: a digitized photo from a National Geographic, a video clip from Jaws, and an audio selection from Peter Gabriel's CD would be treated differently--the selections are not treated as a equivalent chunks of digital data.

3. The nature and substantiality of the material used.
In general, when other criteria are met, the copying of extracts that are "not substantial in length" when compared to the whole of which they are part may be considered fair use.

4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work.
In general, a work that supplants the normal market is considered an infringement, but a work does not have to have an effect on the market to be an infringement.

Releases are only needed to cover 3 specific concerns: Invasion of Privacy, which concerns the usage of a person's image as regards False Light (untrue portrayal), Disclosure of Private Facts without legitimate public concern, or Intrusion, which EXCLUDES photographs of people in a public place or open event.
Right of Publicity, which concerns the usage of someone's image in any type of endorsement, real or implied
Defamation, which concerns false impressions of a person that may injure their reputation.

Nude works usually require a release, but the Life Sessions I have attended always had a "blanket" release that the model signed beforehand, absolving all artists of liability for the works created during those sessions. You can print your sketches, publish and sell them because of that agreement.

Parody works are also legitimate uses. "...doesn't mean they can't attempt to sue" covers all possibilities, with the equally valid, "...Doesn't mean they'll win," response. Even WITH releases, if someone wants to sue, they might attempt it.

Again from Stanford University:A release is not needed to use a person's name or image for informational purposes. An informational (or "editorial") purpose is anything that informs, educates or expresses opinions protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (protecting freedom of speech and of the press). An informational use would include using a person's name or photograph in a newspaper or magazine article, an educational program, film, nonfiction book, or informational webzine (a magazine published on the World Wide Web).

This applies to Photographs, as well as artworks, including sculpture, drawings, paintings, and prints.
If you use photos from magazines for the physical likeness of someone, that is allowed, but if the physical likeness is recognizably similar to a photograph (dress, hairstyle, pose), you could be infringing on copyright, depending on what you do with the image.
If you are not selling the image, you can put your creations on your website for "Show and Tell," without a model release. Those "outraged" models would most likely have a hard time attempting to sue anyone if they posed for a "public" art session. So long as the drawings were not used in any type of defamatory or false manner, no release is needed.

If I take a photograph of someone in a public place, as long as I do not put that person in a "false light," "defamatory appearance," or "Commercial" setting (to sell or endorse something), I can, and do have the legal right to sell the photo as fine art, make a painting from the photo and sell that, or display the photo, as well as any subsequent artistic creations, publicly with no release, nor renumeration needed on my part.

Stock photos are created for the specific intent of being used for commercial purposes. That is why they require releases...


01-31-2007, 04:28 PM
While I'm sure Rose Queen had the best intentions, the original question is almost 8 years old! :D


02-01-2007, 03:59 AM
LOL, I did not notice that...sure is a long time to go unanswered. I'm sure the op is relieved to finally get one....:)

02-01-2007, 08:26 PM
Wow, this question was so old! And, the person only posted 7 times, I wonder what happened to him/her? Rose Queen, how did you come across this post? It had to be really buried!

But, I did learn something from the recent responses. Thanks!