Why you need a model release. A release is a written agreement between you, the University and the person you are photographing/filming or the person who owns the property you are photographing/filming. The purpose of the release is to protect you, and the University, from any future lawsuits the person might file for claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy.
A model release affirms that the person being photographed has given consent to be photographed and to the use of the images you capture. It doesn’t just apply to professional models or situations where people know they are posing for photos. You should seek to get a signed model release any time that your photos contain recognizable images of people, unless you are certain that you will never want to use them for anything other than editorial purposes.
The releases you obtain should be saved forever and should be linked in some way with the photographs to which they relate. You can expect to be asked to produce them whenever you license an image, and you will need them if you ever have to defend yourself in court.
When do I need a model release? The basic, general rule is that you need a release from people to use photographs showing a recognizable likeness of them for purposes of trade or advertising. The other side of the general rule is that you usually do not need a release for strictly editorial uses. You also do not need a release of photographs taken at public events where there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy (such as a football game, admissions event, ribbon cutting, etc.).
The first question is whether the person is recognizable from the photo. If not, you don’t need a release. Whether a person is recognizable is generally a very easy standard for the person making the claim to meet.
If the person is recognizable, the second question is whether the proposed use is for an advertisement (which is very broadly defined). If it is, then you need a release. If it is not, then the third question is whether the use is for a commercial purpose, such as a brochure, product packaging, calendar, or a website that is intended to enhance or promote your department, program, the University, etc. If it is, then you need a release.
Information extracted from the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) website. For more in-depth information about privacy rights and property releases, visit: asmp.org/articles/business-and-legal-faq.html