Who Should Sign the Model Release?

A photographer recently sent me following question:

I took photos of people who were minors at the time of the shoot.  They are now adults. I want to use the photos for stock. Who do I now ask to sign the model release — the parents or the models?

In this instance, the models should sign the release. Here’s some background:

Because minors can later disaffirm (void) contracts, you need the consent of a minor’s parent or guardian before using the minor’s name or likeness for commercial purposes.

In the case of Shields v. Gross, 461 N.Y.S.2d 254 (1983), Brooke Shields attempted to void the model release her mother signed when Shields was a minor. The pertinent sections of the release at issue stated:

I hereby give the photographer, his legal representatives, and assigns, those for whom the photographer is acting, and those acting with his permission, or his employees, the right and permission to copyright and/or use, reuse and/or publish, and republish photographic pictures or portraits of me, or in which I may be distorted in character, or form, in conjunction with my own or a fictitious name, on reproductions thereof in color, or black and white made through any media by the photographer at his studio or elsewhere, for any purpose whatsoever; including the use of any printed matter in conjunction therewith.

I hereby waive any right to inspect or approve the finished photograph or advertising copy or printed matter that may be used in conjunction therewith or to the eventual use that it might be applied.

The New York court held that Shields, now an adult, had no right to disaffirm the consent given by her mother so that the release was still binding as to Shields.

However, once a model reaches the age of majority (usually 18), then the model, not the parent, has the right to sign a model release on his behalf. Therefore, if you don’t get the release from the parent/guardian while the model is a minor, then get it from the adult model.

One Response to “Who Should Sign the Model Release?”

  1. Hello,
    I recently received a nasty email from a model I shot about 7 years ago. The purpose of the shot was simply artistic and so there was mutual (tacit) agreement to do the shoot and have the images be used for my art purposes, which in this case included an editorial in an art magazine about me and my work and my portfolio online. The was no nudity other than shirtless-ness involved. No fees were charged for portraiture, nor conversely fees expected for the model. It was a classic photographer's time and materials and model gets access to prints for personal use. Back then model even requested copy of the magazine and further posed for other projects.

    The email in question demanded that I take all photos of the model down immediately, with a threat to seek further avenues. ( I have to say, the tone simply does not match the person I interacted back then with and who like many aspiring model/actors in LA, eventually disappear indefinitely).
    So I have obliged, but I do have a certain affection for that work and do want to continue showcasing it as part of my portfolio.

    What do I do?


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