General Release Stands Test of Time and Money

While some famous people come to hate the paparazzi, they certainly seem to like to have their picture taken early in their career. At that time, photographers often can get a “general” model release for those photographs (without restrictions as to their use) easily and for no or little charge. Will that general model release be valid years later when the star is making millions or the if the photographer makes a lot of money from the pictures? The likely answer is yes.

In the recent case of Marder v. Lopez, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the validity of a general release relating to the movie “Flashdance.” The movie purportedly was based on Maureen Marder’s life. Marder sued Jennifer Lopez, Sony Music and Paramount Pictures for using “well-known scenes from Flashdance” in one of Lopez’s music videos. Marder made claims of copyright infringement and for violating her rights of publicity, among other things.

Marder had signed a general release in 1982 giving Paramount the right to use her life story. The Court found that, “though in hindsight the agreement appears to be unfair to Marder — she only received $2300 in exchange for release of all claims relating to a movie that grossed over $150 million — there is simply no evidence that her consent was obtained by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, duress, or undue influence.”

A general model release is a good thing to get from the people you photograph, even when you don’t expect that you’ll need it later.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Technorati Tags: copyright law, photography business

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