Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I've seen variants of this question covered on many sites but I can't find an answer specific to fine art sales. I know that I need a model release if my picture will be used as stock photography (promotion, advertising, etc). But what if I take a picture of a street performer and then want to sell that photo to someone to hang in their home or office? It wouldn't be used to promote a product but it would still be a commercial sale.

Is a release needed for this situation?

Thank you!

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3  
A comment I would have to this question is that this is not a legal website filled with experts in law. This is important, because if there is any doubt at all you might have, it is best to consult a lawyer with experience in this realm for your local area. Local laws differ, so what applies to you may not to me and vice versa. –  John Cavan Nov 21 '10 at 3:29
    
Agreed, and I realize that any crowd-sourced question is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate and may even be different in various localities. However, I think this is probably a question that professional or experienced amateurs would know off the top of their heads. But I do appreciate the reminder that "you get what you pay for" essentially. –  Haeriphos Nov 22 '10 at 0:13
    
As long as you know. :) However, I would dispute the "off the top their heads" angle. Just before I went to Italy, there was all sorts of people warning me about the laws there and how draconian they've become. The one, and only time, I saw a legal reaction to a camera was in the Sistine Chapel, nowhere else, even then, they let the person keep the image. –  John Cavan Nov 22 '10 at 2:49
    
See also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/29181/… –  Clara Onager Nov 14 '12 at 9:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

If there are people in the image that are readily identifiable, yes. This is true for any image that will be used in promotion of something else. In your case things become a little muddy and ultimately comes down to the, "what-if?"

"What-if," the street performer walked into an office and saw a photo of him/herself and thought, "I never signed a model release for that. Dang, I'm ticked off!" and then proceeded to find a lawyer, hunt you down and drag you to court. Then the judge happened to be haunted by a terrible school photo from his early childhood and was like, "this court finds that you owe street-performer cash for mental anguish!" Probably will never happen.

As photographers we are allowed to photograph anyone and anything we can see with our naked eye on or from public property. This law stems from the protection of press freedoms and extends through freedom of speech. In this regard, to make a photograph of a public performance artist in a public place and then charge money for prints, you do not need a model release. However, you should always have a model release with you. You never know when you will find that amazing image that Coca-Cola wants to pay you 10k for.

*of special note...when photographing a piece of public art wherein the art is the central focus of the image, you do need permission from the artist to resale the image. However, if the artwork appears in the image as a part of your composition, you're alright.

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Regarding public art: doesn't freedom of panorama apply to that? I know for sure that Czech copyright law allows me to photograph art permanently installed on public property and use it any way I want. –  che Nov 20 '10 at 18:50
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Regarding public art, see also: photo.stackexchange.com/q/4140/21 –  Rowland Shaw Nov 20 '10 at 20:08

Yes.

If your photo contains recognizable faces or private property you must next attach a signed model or property releases if you wish to sell it as commercial stock photography.

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