Does a film producer need to obtain releases for photos from the web?
Does a film producer need to obtain releases from individuals appearing in photos that are on the Internet? A lawyer explains.
Dave Stern: Regardless of genre, being a relatively practical but relatively risk averse entertainment lawyer, I would always advise from the get-go to obtain any and all possible releases. For individuals featured in a photograph who are referenced or shown on screen for more than a couple seconds, I would certainly focus on getting as many releases as possible.
I would start with the copyright owner of the photograph (likely the photographer but it could be the case where it isn’t). Reach out to the photographer and obtain a general release of sorts from that photographer.
In reaching out to the photographer, they might give you some insight into who the individuals are; it could be their family, for example. They might even be able to assist in obtaining the releases for the individuals in the actual photograph.
I certainly would rather have it buttoned up and have everyone sign a necessary release so that the risk is inherently zero with respect to exploitation of the project.
For larger scale productions, if you have clearance personnel engaged, that is always a huge help to entertainment lawyers because they have the resources and wherewithal to contact individuals, copyright owners, IP owners, etc., and get the necessary permissions in place.
Lawyers advise but it is not the lawyer’s job to reach out to individuals on behalf of the production, so a designated clearance person on the project is immensely helpful.
Dave Stern is an entertainment lawyer and partner at Blaney McMurtry LLP
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