Lights, Camera, Action! Lawsuit?

by | Apr 1, 2014 | Creative

You and your advertising agency have worked hard. You’ve spent a month coming up with creative ideas to help your organization bring awareness to your cause and get your message out to the masses.

After all parties have weighed in on the mission and message, your campaign gets the “green light” for production. Your campaign includes stunning photography taken in the most picturesque location showcasing the beautiful landscape critical to your messaging.

You set up the perfect shot filled with smiling faces, the lighting in the viewfinder looks like it was custom made for this moment, you take the picture.  Another top-notch photo shoot well done.

Your agency’s creative department loves the picture, you love the picture, and it captures the meaning of your organization.

Your ad runs in a prestigious publication. Your organization is getting great direct response from the ad, and your agency receives many industry accolades for promoting its clients. All is well in advertising land, until…

… a certified letter comes from an attorney stating the glamorous photo you took contained his client, without his permission. The person in the photograph is asking for a large sum of money to keep your glamorous photo in all advertising and marketing collateral, including social media.

This is commonplace and well within the bounds of the law. The person suing has the right to ask for compensation for the use of their likeness in your ad campaign.

The perfect shot your photographer took filled with happy smiling people contains a person in the background. Sure enough, a lovely woman looking disinterested, not even related to the campaign is clearly in the photo and recognizable. She is not a person who was part of the photo shoot, but just happened to be there when the photo was taken.

Think about where this could happen. The Western Wall in Israel. A crowded street corner. The park. Even though your intent was to photograph only the subjects in the ad campaign, you got something extra.

How can you protect yourself in this brave new world of technology and viral images being spread at lightning speed?

Have everyone sign a photography/model release (photo release sample)… this means, trees, dogs, people etc. This acknowledges that you made an attempt to notify the parties that may or may not be part of the picture and abide by someone’s privacy.

If they won’t sign a release, do not have them in your shot. Ask them politely to move if you have to or reposition your shot.

Another note, when using stock photography, buy the additional photo release especially if there are people in the photo.

In short, find the ideal location and have EVERYONE sign releases. Finally, enjoy the fruits of your labor.