Boring but essential reading

This is a subject which would take pages and pages to even attempt to explain in full, so this is a brief precis and I do not claim everything I've written to be 100% legally accurate, as I do not have a degree in copyright and contractual law. But its as near as damn it accurate to serve most people.

Its boring, but important and models in particular would be very wise to read this article in full, regardless of how boring it is.

Also, before reading any further, remember one golden rule. There is generally no such thing as a workable and enforceable verbal contract and no such thing as a "trusted photographer." Before undertaking any form of modelling at any level ASSUME that the images will be seen by somebody you did not want to see them. On that basis do not pose at a level you do not want seen on the internet with anyone at any time. If you do and you get caught out then its your own fault, nobody else's. And please, also remember that portfolio hosting sites ARE THE INTERNET and they are free and available to anyone and attract as much surfing traffic looking for free nude images as paysites do!

As a general rule in the UK, the photographer owns copyright of all images and can do exactly what he/she likes with them. Please be aware of this fact. A model has no control or rights over photographic images or video footage. The only way for a model to have any control over images is to have a specific contract regarding their usage.

In the commercial world outside portfolio sites and outside of the glamour/adult industry, it is usual for there to be various contracts regarding shoots and the rights to/usage of the images. There may be specific limitations regarding their use and specific royalties for the model for each and every use of specific images over a specified time. The clauses and penalty clauses which can be applied to the contract are as endless as the Lawyer's fees for writing them.

In the world of internet modelling contracts such as those mentioned above seldom exist and in most cases would be impractical, but as a model you could if you so choose have image rights and usage contracts drawn up. Getting photographers to agree to such a thing is another matter, but its certainly possible in theory and is the only way you as a model can have any control over images.

A model release is a different thing from a contract, although is effectively a contract in itself and providing the correct procedures have been adhered to, usually binding in law, so remember this.

In practice, for amateur shoots you will not normally be asked to sign a model release or a contract and its very unlikely that images will appear anywhere other than on the photographers portfolio. But the paragraphs at the beginning of this article absolutely apply, so remember this.

You may be asking now...why if the photographer can do what they like with the images anyway, is there any point in a model release in any circumstances?

The laws in other countries are not necessarily the same as the UK and in general the responsible parts of the internet adult and glamour industry adheres to the USA code of practice and specifically to USC regulation 2257. This is long and complex legislation and would take literally days of writing to attempt to explain, but in a nutshell it is legislation designed to prevent the exploitation of models and ensure that stringent ID checks are carried out and that underage models do not slip through the net. It is also designed to protect legitimate producers from spurious law suits.

2257 compliant releases tend to be lengthy documents and in typically USA style, cover almost every eventuality and every circumstance whereby a model could sue the Producer or Licensee. They usually start with a compliance declaration which is basically the model signing a document to swear she is telling the truth in the release thereafter. In the release itself which may be several pages long, the model is signing to say she is over 18, does not suffer from mental illness, is a fit and proper person to make the decission to pose, is not under the influence of alchohol/drugs etc, etc, etc and will then go on to cover just about every base as regards image use (image normally means photograph or video footage or any part or portion thereof). What the model effectively signs is a document to say they know exactly what they are getting into, understands the consequences and accepts that the images can be used anywhere, anytime, in any way shape or form for all time, including by the Producers decendants and any other individuals or corporations who the Producer grants rights to. By signing a 2257 compliant release which has been completed correctly and within the law of the land, the model has absolutely signed away any rights to have any say over how the images or footage is used for all time, make no mistake about that.

Ok, to further complicate, a release generally grants all rights to the Producer who then may licence use of the images to third parties ie, websites, magazines etc. A licence can take on many forms and a producer may grant one licence only or several licences in respect of a set of images or a video clip.

Most major websites will commission a specific volume of content from a Producer for a fixed fee which usually includes an exclussive, unrestricted, all time licence for the content. When a Producer grants a licence of this nature to a client, both they and the model lose any control over the content for the duration of the licence, which is usually all time. The buyer then effectively owns the content and can do what they want with it, including resell it, without further reference to the Producer. It also means the content is dead as far as the Producer goes and cannot be resold.

Some producers grant multi licences or limited time licences on content meaning it can be resold several times although the fees available for multi licence content are small, so for any worthwhile profit to be made, the set needs to be sold numerous times. This is the reason that you may see the same set of photo's or video clip appearing on several websites or magazines.

A final thing to remember that should be obvious, but apparently is not, is that there is no such thing as country specific web content. All websites are viewable in any country where its legal to view them, so any producer who tells you they are shooting content for viewing in a particular country is being less than honest. The exception could be magazine content, many magazines are still country specific...but their websites are not....

As I said in another article. Any models best assets are their eyes and their brain. Use them.