Firstly, we require every person to fill out a model release. We now have hundreds of model releases on file. It's getting a bit out of hand.

Instead, what we'd like to do is include verbiage in the initial session agreement/contract that by hiring us to photograph company members the company agrees to let the members know that by partaking in the shoot with us they are agreeing to release the rights of their likeness etcetera. If they object to this "bulk model release" then they can sign a form against our use of their likeness. This would effectively lessen the number of signed releases to save to only tracking signed objections.

Has anyone heard of this actually being applied? We can't be the first ones to ask, although we can't find anything like it on Google.

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    If you want a useful answer to just about any legal question, it's essential to say which jurisdiction applies. Sep 20 '18 at 7:21
  • Contact a lawyer. You as photographer should obtain the model release, or make sure there's one already. Model release should be explicit, and can't be substituted with a "you didn't object", that's not professional at all. Ask your lawyer.
    – roetnig
    Sep 20 '18 at 14:07
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    Thank you for your request for jurisdiction clarification, Peter. We are in Maine, but this question applies to photographers and subjects within the United States of America. I understand that there are states with explicit laws governing an individual's publicity and states with common laws pertaining to this. But my question isn't really about any one state, or jurisdiction. We appreciate your input, @roetnig. We have a lawyer. Your viewpoint is noted and perfectly valid. Thanks. Sep 20 '18 at 14:52

The following is for entertainment purposes only. Contact a lawyer if you have serious legal concerns.

Contact a lawyer to determine whether you actually need model releases and whether an opt-in or opt-out system would be most appropriate. While "bulk model releases" with opt-out might save on paperwork, they would be inappropriate if you have significant legal exposure.

Model releases may not be necessary as long as you are not using photos for commercial activities, such as selling them to third parties, using them for advertising, or using them in ways that extend beyond the purpose for you were hired to take them. For instance, if you are taking portraits that will be provided only to your clients and used for no other purpose, people may be considered to have implicitly agreed to having had their photo taken for that purpose by having sat for you.

It might also be helpful to have an explicit policy regarding whether photos will be taken or deleted when people object to having their photo taken.

In the US, there is currently no federal statute regarding Rights of Publicity, and the matter is handled state-by-state. The following links contain more information, including lists of states with relevant statutes.

The following may also be of interest:

  • Thank you for your answer @xiota. We have a lawyer, the question is more about what anecdotal experiences photographers have with this situation. But it appears to be a bit too alien of an idea. You're right. A model release is more to CYA if you use a person's likeness to make money for your business. I will update our original question with the actual contract we put together with the help of our lawyer, but only if it would be valid, professional, and apply to all Americans. Sep 20 '18 at 15:07

In general, "X agreed to take care of this" is not a defense in this kind of situation. You might have a claim against X for not fulfilling their end of the deal, but that does not protect you from claims by anyone other than X. They weren't part of your contract with X, so they are not bound by it.

  • For example, Lifetouch takes a photo of every student from K-12 in our school district and many other schools in Maine. We don't sign a model release from them. We sign one from the school. We assume that this is because Lifetouch has a contract with the school. So it is up to the school to track model releases and not them. We are wondering how this could apply to us in a corporate setting. Sep 20 '18 at 15:12
  • School districts have more responsibility for their charges than corporations have for their employees. But has Lifetouch resold photos that they took under this contract to people other than parents and, I assume, school publications such as yearbooks? Sep 20 '18 at 15:48

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