I release many of my photos under one or more Creative Commons licenses. One of them was recently uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, and I was approached by a moderator there with an inquiry whether I had a model release (in not so few words) from the model allowing republication of the photo.

As I understand it, my licensing of my rights under copyright (which I hold solely) has no interaction with the model's rights (which she holds, and may have licensed to me under some terms). I can give you my permission to use the photo, in which case you can use it in some fashion iff you don't need (under your local laws) her permission to use it in that way, otherwise you need to also get her permission (which you might get through me, if she has released those rights to me).

Can anyone further or more accurately explain how these two interplay?

2 Answers 2


Whoever is going to use the image needs permission from both the model (for their likeness) and the photographer (for their copyright). In some circumstances (mainly journalism, but I believe there is one or two other exceptions) a model release is not required, in which case only the license for copyright is required.

Disclaimer: seek photographic advice from photographers and legal advice from lawyers (and I am not a lawyer).


I imagine it could depend on jurisdiction, but I think you are generally correct that the copyright is the right to reproduce a particular image and that the model/likeness rights have to do with if the image can be used in a particular way due to content. If you had a release from the model for the image though, then I think that would effectively wave the model rights in the case of that image. Otherwise, they may need to go and contact the model as well to make sure their reproduction of the image is ok.

Note: I am also not a lawyer, this is just what I believe is the interaction.

  • A model has a right to their likeness and can haggle that away however they see fit. A common concern is over content, but they could also argue terms similar to those found in licenses (won't be used more than # times, won't be used in certain cities/states/countries, etc). In both cases someone has a right to something and the license/release contains the terms under which they have agreed to share it.
    – tenmiles
    Jun 19, 2013 at 18:19
  • @tenmiles - right, but the questioner said they were asking if he had a release. I thought releases were generally to allow whatever use rather than licensing it for particular. I know they could restrict it however they want.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 19, 2013 at 18:41
  • I realize that may be argumentative. I don't disagree with you, but wanted to add that which may make the whole thing clearer.
    – tenmiles
    Jun 19, 2013 at 23:51
  • @tenmiles - ok, cool. Always good to make an answer better. I actually wasn't 100% sure that the term release might not sometimes be applied to a partial release. My own knowledge about it is limited since, as we both pointed out, we aren't lawyers.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 20, 2013 at 13:02

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