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  Home | Web Video Tips | Stay out of trouble: Know when to use a Video Release Form

Stay out of trouble: Know when to use a Video Release Form

Here are the guidelines covering when you'll need to get a video release form signed before you can show someone on your videos. Following these guidelines can keep you out of trouble.

The information provided below is not intended as legal advice. This is a general discussion of the subject matter, for informational purposes only. If you have any specific legal questions, we recommend you consult an attorney familiar with this area of law to ensure the Release Form you use:

  • Protects your rights;
  • Keeps you out of trouble; and,
  • Covers all the points related to your situation.

Video Appearance Release Forms

A video release form is also known as an Appearance Release form. It is a simple contract that gives you legal permission to use the image of the person who has signed the form for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Having a signed release form can give you protection in the event an individual appearing in your video should later decide to sue you for using the image (e.g., for invasion of privacy or unfair use of their image).

When do you need to use a release form?

Laws covering the use of images of individuals frequently differ based on jurisdiction - from country to country and state to state. While there is no absolute rule of law you must follow, there is one absolute rule of thumb:

If you plan to use a person's image for commercial purposes, you need to get a signed video release form from that individual.

There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you shoot a crowd scene of people in a public area, you generally do not need a video release form from every person in the crowd. By being in a public area, we all give up our 'reasonable expectation of privacy.'

However, this does not mean you can go out and shoot images of identifiable people in public, and then sell those images for commercial use (e.g., in a clip art library). If you do, this could be considered an invasion of privacy (in some states), and you could be opening yourself up to an expensive lawsuit.

Let's say you are shooting a news story of individuals in a public area, you generally don't need to get a video release form. If you are shooting video footage for an educational video showing people in a public area, and you use the footage in the context in which it was shot, you probably wouldn't need a video release form from each individual.

You will want to get a release form if you:

  • Are shooting a 'how to' video, and you interview someone or shoot footage of an instructor.
  • Are shooting video from a workshop, you may need to get signed video release forms from each audience member who appears on the video - especially if you plan to use clips of indentifiable audience members for promotional purposes.
  • Shoot video at a private event, within a place a business, or a home - you will also need to get permission from the owner or organizer of the event before you start videotaping, in addition to video release forms from each person you tape.

Getting a video release form signed by identifiable participants in your video is a good idea not only to protect you, but it also can make it easier to sell the rights to your video later on down the road (e.g., if you're shooting a DVD).

What Do You Need in a Release Form?

A good video release form:

  • Specifies what is being released (video images, audio, photographs).
  • Specifies that the videographer may sell or assign the right to use the images or other materials to third parties.
  • Specifies that the release is irrevocable. Otherwise, the release could be terminated by the person giving it at any time.
  • Is signed and dated by the individual releasing his/her images. If the subject is a minor (under 18 years old), the release should be signed by a parent or legal guardian.
  • Is in writing.

The following is an example of a simple video release form. To reiterate: if you have any questions, it is a good idea to consult your attorney to make sure that the Release Form you use covers all the points that are appropriate to your situation.


For good and valuable consideration, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I hereby consent to the photographing of myself and the recording of my voice and the use of these photographs and/or recordings singularly or in conjunction with other photographs and/or recordings for advertising, publicity, commercial or other business purposes. I understand that the term "photograph" as used herein encompasses both still photographs and motion picture footage.

I further consent to the reproduction and/or authorization by ___________________to reproduce and use said photographs and recordings of my voice, for use in all domestic and foreign markets. Further, I understand that others, with or without the consent of ________________ may use and/or reproduce such photographs and recordings.

I hereby release _____________________, and any of its associated or affiliated companies, their directors, officers, agents, employees and customers, and appointed advertising agencies, their directors, officers, agents and employees from all claims of every kind on account of such use.

If Model is under 18: I, ____________________, am the parent/legal guardian of the individual named above, I have read this release and approve of its terms.

Print Name: ___________________________

Signature: ___________________________

Date: ________________________

Related Resources

If you'd like to learn more about this subject, be sure to visit the web site of professional photographer, Dan Heller, and read his incredibly in-depth article on the subject of model releases.

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