A model release is a contract that states that you are allowed to display, publish, and sell an artwork that contains a recognizable person.
By signing and agreeing to the stipulations, the model is agreeing that their likeness be made public.
It may be necessary to get such permissions for legal reasons, especially to ensure you are not sued.
Some would argue that they are not required for artists, since creative expression is a defense in such cases. But, in my opinion, if you have a recognizable person in a painting, and are planning on selling or even using it for promotional purposes, you are better off getting the model to sign the waiver. This will not only ease your mind, but will give you express freedom to do anything you want with the artwork in the future. If your painting becomes famous, the model will not be able to (or try to) sue you for compensation.
The model release should state that you have permission to publish, make copies, and sell the artwork. It should also give your heirs rights to the artwork after you pass away. The form should be signed by the model with a witness, and ideally reviewed by a lawyer. In the case of children, the form should be signed by the parents.
The problem with NOT having a model release
The model may claim you are exploiting them in a way that infringes on their privacy. This can be using the image in advertisements for your artwork and selling the artwork with them in it. Creatively altering an image of a recognizable person can also be seen as invading their privacy. Here’s an extreme example: placing Hitler’s moustache on a painting of a known person will have connotations that will make most people want to sue, especially if they have no prior knowledge of the alteration.
When you will not need a model release contract
In cases where the model is changed so much that they cannot be recognized, a model release most likely will not be needed. Some artists do not bother with model releases, since they personally know their models. For artists who continually use the same model, it may be a good idea to have them sign a general model release that covers all artworks created from the sessions, now and in the future.
Although you may not feel the need for having them sign a contract right now, it’s better to “play it safe” by getting them to sign one, so future legal complications will not arise.
Model Release Form (Sample)
This is a sample contract that you can go by in crafting your own model release. Use your own wording according to the situation, and if possible, get the advice of a lawyer or legal professional.
I, (the name of the model), hereby give (the name of the artist) and those acting on his/her behalf (heirs, legal representation, etc.) permission to distribute, sell, publish, republish, copyright, use, and re-use, the painting created from the modeling sessions during the dates of (dates of modeling sessions go here).
The painting(s) created from this modeling session may be named in any way of the artist’s choosing – including the name of the model. The artwork(s) may be used in promotions, advertisements, distorted, or in any way the artist creatively chooses, in print, on the web, or in any other public or private medium.
I will receive no monetary compensation from sales of the artwork(s), either from the original, prints, or any other form.
I am of legal adult age.
By signing this model release agreement, I am releasing all rights and claims to the artwork to the artist, and am agreeing to all the preceding terms.
Full Name (Please Print):
*Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, it is best to seek the advice of a reputable lawyer in your area for model releases and copyright issues, especially since laws may vary according to the country you live in.
Have you used model release contracts? If you have your own form, you are welcome to post it here for our readers.