Media Release: Don’t Fiji “Bomb” Your Business

media release form modelAre you using others to promote your business without permission? When it comes to marketing your business, one of the key legal documents you’ll want in place is a media release for each person who appears in your promotional materials.

This includes photos and videos you use in advertising, customer testimonials, social media, etc.

What Can Happen If There’s No Media Release?

Because without a proper media release signed, you may end up owing a small fortune to the person whose likeness you used without permission.

For example, a grocery store got dunked for $10 million because they used basketball legend Michael Jordan’s photo in ads (he donated the money to charity).

Right now, there’s a lawsuit between Fiji Water and a model known as the photobombing “Fiji Water Girl” that’s about whether or not the company has the right to use the model’s likeness to promote their product. And it’s a mess because the company claims the only signed copy of the alleged release was apparently destroyed by the model.

Naturally, it isn’t just celebrities and models who can collect from you.

For example, a strip club used a woman’s photo, falsely implying she was one of their dancers. She sued the pants off the club.

Of course, the use without permission doesn’t have to be in a negative context for you to be liable.

Getting The Release Signed

Now it’s fairly simple to get a media release signed. And it’s easier to do it before taking photos or filming video than trying to collect signatures after the fact.

But the key is to get the right signatures for every person whose likeness you plan to use.

For example, there was an Internet marketing guru who held a seminar where he decided to sell videos of the event afterwards. Although the guru had attendee releases signed, there was a child who attended the event…and neither a parent nor legal guardian signed a media release on the kid’s behalf.

So, the guru had a choice of either paying the kid’s parents for the right to use his likeness or spend more money to have the child digitally edited out of video before selling it.

What About Stock Photography And Video?

If you’re going to use stock photos and videos, the licensing terms will govern what you can and can’t do with them in your business. Stock licensing doesn’t necessarily mean you can portray the person in the video or photo in a negative false light. And if you plan to exceed the scope of the license, you’ll want to get an additional release signed (and likely pay for it).

Where To Get A Media Release For Your Business

An experienced business contracts lawyer can prepare a media release form that’s right for your company. The terms will vary depending upon your type of business, what type of media you’re using, and whether or not you’ll be paying compensation in exchange for the release.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

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