View Full Version : legal questions.

03-09-2004, 02:11 PM
will someone with experience please let me know to what extent i need to get releases. for instance: i am filming a person talking to a large group of people.... are you telling me i have to get all of them to sign a release?? i know that all the people that are doing interviews will sign one and i have been told that i need to get releases for property too...

if you have experience in making a documentary that has been or will be distributed and you can help me here i would be very grateful.

03-09-2004, 03:03 PM
Haven't done a released doc yet, so take this for what it's worth, but it's my understanding that if someone is recognizable on camera, clearly and distinctly, then they should sign a release.

That's why you see people in the background fuzzed out in "Cops".

03-09-2004, 05:23 PM
Well, if I were concerned enough to want to get releases, I would for sure talk to an attorney who understands the trade and get him to write the release form I'd use and at the same time give me a bit of a primer in who needs to sign it, what to do if they don't, what happens if I blow it off and do the shoot anyway.

Would not have said this quite the same way couple of years ago, but as I am now the proud benefactor of $30,000 loss due to my terrific insight into unrepresented contractual agreements, I see the light in a bit of a different perspective.


03-10-2004, 07:33 AM
If it's a public event and you're filming a speaker & the back of a bunch of peoples' heads, i wouldn't worry about getting releases from them.

03-10-2004, 09:55 AM
Right. They have to be clearly, distinctly recognizable before it even becomes a question.

David Jimerson
03-10-2004, 07:50 PM
Even then, if you're not drawing particular attention to any specific person, you're still probably OK. So, if you're doing a head-on shot into the audience and someone can recognize Aunt Mabel in the third row, as long as Aunt Mabel is just part of the larger crowd, you're *probably* in the clear. ("Probably" is my hedge word, of course -- always good to consult a lawyer if you're not sure.)

03-11-2004, 07:36 AM
I do know in a public place, unless you do an interview with someone, you should be good to go without a release. Been alot of law suites over this, but as far as I know, it pretty much recognized in law that people in a public place have little rights to privacy. If you do however use their image in anyway that could be embarrassing or damaging as could be construed in an X or maybe even R rated movie, you're back in court.

BTW - Nothing you do will keep you out of court if someone choose to pick a fight. But you already know that I'm sure.


03-11-2004, 11:09 AM
That seems like reasonable advice. I have heard similar. But everyone please keep in mind "common knowledge" and "the law" don't necessarily have anything to do with each other, so you must always consult with an actual lawyer or you're taking your chances.

But as Rodger said, if it's embarrassing, etc. then you MUST protect yourself. For example, on "COPS", they bust people in public places all the time, but people in those shows either sign a release or get fuzzed out. Nobody gets shown on that show without signing a release.

David Jimerson
03-18-2004, 12:50 PM
"Common knowledge" -- no. Things like "finders keepers" are NOT the law. Common sense matching the law? Though you won't believe it, most of the time, actually.

But it's different from place to place, and there are Federal *and* state laws, so always, always, always consult someone in your jurisdiction.

03-20-2004, 08:02 AM
One easy way to cover this, if you are at all in the good graces of the people producing the event, is to post a sign giving notice that people attending the event might have their image filmed, and by attending they give concent to the use of their image or likeness. Also, before the event takes place, you can have someone read a notice to the audience giving fair warning that anyone attending the event who does not give concent should leave.

Also...tape the person reading the notice so you have it documented.

They did that in Decline of Western Civilization pt. 1 and ended up actually using the notices in the film.

03-22-2004, 10:07 AM
Good tip J_Barnes. This is what Girls gone wild does when they film a bar, they put a little sign on the door.

03-22-2004, 12:34 PM
here are some links to releases i use, theyre pretty generic so you can modify them in adobe illustrator or acrobat for your own use.


and for some more info...

David Jimerson
03-22-2004, 04:00 PM
One easy way to cover this, if you are at all in the good graces of the people producing the event, is to post a sign giving notice that people attending the event might have their image filmed, and by attending they give concent to the use of their image or likeness. Also, before the event takes place, you can have someone read a notice to the audience giving fair warning that anyone attending the event who does not give concent should leave.

Again, this may work in some jurisdictions, and it others, it may not. It may not even work from county to county.

Remember, the US is, for all practical purposes here, made up of 50 separate countries with their own laws. There's some uniformity, but don't ASSUME that because something is "legal" or "works" in one state that it holds true for all.

05-19-2004, 08:33 AM
I'm not sure how it works for documentaries but in regards to shooting a television show, if you are in a public place, you can shoot whomever you want so long as you have a cable cast sign...and they don't specifically request you not to shoot them. People interviewed on tape definitely need to fill out a consent form.

The language for the cable cast sign reads similar to this:
_________________ is taping for programming which will appear on __________________. If you do not wish to have your name, voice or likeness appear in the programming, please so inform representatives of __________________. Otherwise, your presence and cooperation constitute your consent to be videotaped and your agreement that _________________ may use without compensation your name, voice or likeness in and in connection with its programming."
(Note: all you would have to do is make sure that your DP pans the camera at some point and had footage of someone holding the cable cast sign in the area you are shooting. This acts as legal proof that you had the cable cast sign there)

The language for the consent release form could read similar to this:

In exchange for good and valuable consideration, receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I hereby irrevocably grant to ___________________., its affiliates and licensees, all rights in and to the videotape and sound recording made of me (the "Appearance") on , 200___.

The rights hereby granted to _____________ include the perpetual, exclusive and unencumbered right to use, edit, reproduce, distribute, telecast, publish and otherwise exhibit the Appearance worldwide, including excerpts, in any and all forms of media. In addition, the rights granted to _________- include the right to use the Appearance or any portion thereof, my name, voice, likeness and biographical material to publicize and advertise the Appearance and/or the services of ______________.

I hereby release ______________ and hold ___________________ harmless from and against: (i) any liability based on any personal, property, residual, re-use or other right which I have or may have by virtue of any such use of my name, voice, likeness, biographical material or related clips in which I appear, or as a result of the exhibition, telecast or distribution of the Appearance or any portion thereof; (ii) any claim arising out of any of my acts or statements made in connection with the Appearance (including but not limited to defamation, invasion of privacy, and the like); (iii) and any claim for further consideration or compensation for the Appearance or the rights granted hereunder.

I have the full right and legal capacity to sign this Consent and Release. I have read this Consent and Release prior to signing it and I understand its contents.
Date: __________________Signature: _______________________
Producer: _________________Name of Interviewee: _________________(Please Print)
Project: _____________________________
Authorized Agent: ___________________ ______
Name of junket or event (if applicable): _________(Please Print)
Agent Signature: ______________________ ______

(If this Consent and Release is signed by a minor, the following must be completed by a parent or legal guardian)

I warrant that I am a parent (or legal guardian) of the minor whose signature appears immediately above, and I hereby agree that I and the said minor will be bound by all releases, consents and covenants contained in this Consent and Release.
Date: __________________Signature: __________________________
Name: _____________________________ ______"

Hope this helps...p.s. don't lose any of the consent forms...haha

05-25-2004, 08:59 PM
MTV is in town filming "The Real World - Philadelphia". I have been to several locations throughout the city where they basically have a written contract so to speak taped up on a door that says who they are and what they are doing and if you come into the establishment while they are filming, you cannot sue them and they have the right to use your picture yada, yada, yada....at the very bottom it did say that if you didn't like it you could remove yourself from the establishment! LOL!

Speaking of The Real World, there is a guy that used to freelance at my job and is now one of the camera op's shooting that show. He told me that your on your feet shooting 9 and 1/2 hours out of 10 hour day!

07-09-2004, 09:01 PM
I had a situation similar to this. We were shooting a television campaign for an electric co-op at their annual meeting. Here's what our lawyers told us to do:

In this case everyone who attended the meeting had to register. Along with their registration we had them sign a release either accepting or declining the right to use their likeness. If they accepted, they were issued a small pin and asked to wear it.

The short result, if we didn't see a pin on the person during the edit, we didn't include them.

I've also shot in large public venues. The larger ones have discliamers on all their tickets. If a person entered, they agreed to the use of their likeness. In some cases a general sign was posted [a lot like the MTV sign referenced above].

If you can do it, I'd go with the pin idea. It covered us without a doubt as to who had absolutly agreed to their likeness being used.

07-12-2004, 12:42 PM
As far as I know, the rules for documentary are different. You are allowed a video release. i.e. If you film someone and say on camera "do you mind me filming?" and they agree, you have the right to use them, even without a written release. If you are going to do something where you could potentially embaress or slander, then I would still talk to a lawyer, otherwise film them and ask for their permission on camera and you are good to go.

07-12-2004, 12:47 PM
Well, hold on a minute... a video release is definitely better than nothing, but a written release will be far more valuable and hold up better in court, etc., wouldn't it? On the releases I use it says I have the right to use their image in the production, plus in any associated marketing materials, in all territories and in all countries and in all media and formats and blah blah blah. A video release where someone says "can I film you" and they say "yes" wouldn't necessarily imply all those other rights.

A proper legal written release is always better. A video release is better than nothing, but I don't know how much protection it affords.

07-12-2004, 02:32 PM
I wasnt suggesting to do away with written releases. That is still the most prudent course of action. And if you are going to do a video release you had better tell the subject what it is about, where it will be shown and how it will be distrubuted. I was simply stating that there is more legal room with documentary. And the subjects consent on video is definately usefull in leu of a full written release. And if someone wants to sue you, it is a powerful argument to have them looking into the camera and agreeing to be filmed. But the written release is still important. In fact having them do both might be the smartest idea.

07-12-2004, 11:20 PM
I agree completely.

07-13-2004, 07:18 AM
With a video release it is essential that "informed consent" occur, while with a paper release it merely must be a legal understanding. Informed consent means not only to they sign on the dotted line, but the are told in detail the use of the project. IF you screw up any bit, and the judge sees that in pretrail, you will go to court and tough noogies, as it will be up to the jury to determine if you are a scoundral. So if I did it on video, I would read them a miranda that I had printed up.

07-22-2004, 10:01 AM
What about Michael Moore? It seems hard that a lot of the people he interviews would give him permission to use their face and name, especially in the way he normally does. How does he get these releases.

07-27-2004, 03:38 AM
What about Michael Moore? *It seems hard that a lot of the people he interviews would give him permission to use their face and name, especially in the way he normally does. *How does he get these releases.

He has lots of money and lots of lawyers, and he relied on his movie being a documentary of political criticism, in purchasing stock, and in doing public "ambush" style interviews. In general, ethical documentarians get releases except for interviews of political figures.

09-21-2004, 05:34 PM
The first film project I ever worked on was with a friend of mine shooting a doc on karaoke. We hit nearly every bar in our coastal city (with the bar owner's permission). The guy who was doing the filming just put up the public notice form on the front doors to the place, he made a short announcement before the singing was to begin, and we got individual consents of those people we filmed who were singing. Some declined, of course, but most were agreeable. The worst mistake we made was in getting "permission" at one particular Irish drinking pub from someone who said he was the owner when he wasnt. The owner showed up mid taping, with some of his friends. Its nice to have eqipment that breaks down fast! I didnt wait to see what they had to say. I started packing, beginning with the most expensive equipment first, stuffed the tapes inside my shirt, and headed for the door! haha!!!

10-26-2004, 01:29 PM
how much they pay him?
working with dvx?

11-09-2004, 08:33 AM
Basically if you are specifically shooting someone and they can be identified, then they need to sign something. So if you are following a person down a street they would need a release. If they talk on camera they need a release. If you are shooting them walking and other strangers are incidentally in the background you do not need the strangers to sign. If you are shooting a street corner and specifically a building, the people who walk in the frame do not need a release. If you are shooting a topic of obese people and need shots of obese people sitting outside eating pizza, they all need to sign. If you are filming an event then you should notify all involved. If it's a public event then a sign that says who you are and what you are doing will cover you. (Shoot the sign posted for protection). If you come across someone that wants to talk on camera but you don't have releases, you can have them do an on camera release saying their name, address and that they are completely aware of what this is and their participation. Of course you ned to keep the video. There are so many more scenarios. Throw some at me and I'll say yes or no to a release.

11-15-2004, 04:46 PM
Great copy of a release "editPredator". As for notices on the doors, for general audience "background people" yes, this is usually fine. HOWEVER, to be safe, having a release signed is important. For your actual talents, do it. For anybody that approaches the camera, on the shoots I've been on, a PA would run up and have them sign a release. BEAR IN MIND that if someone is at a bar where you guys are filming and regardless of whatever notice you have stappled to the bar door, if they ask you that they DO NOT want to be on film, then you have to respect their wishes. Especially if they did not sign anything.

Don't forget location release forms too!! Make sure you have an agreement with the location your at, etc. Free is always best too :)