Property Releases Revisited

Rarely do you need a property release for legal reasons. Check my blog on this subject.

Extensive searching of federal and state law throughout the United States reveals no case that held that a property release is required to use photographs of property (absent trademark issues – for more on that subject, go here). While not all lawsuits are reported and disputes often are resolved before a case is filed, no incident has been reported of a photographer being prosecuted for using photographs of property without a release (except for the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame case where the photographer won). If you know of one that occurred in the United States, please report it here.

Some have speculated about what cause of action a property owner might have to prosecute someone who uses photographs of property without a release. The first theory is really what is called “false lights” and has to do with rights of privacy for people, not property. See my Sept. 14 blog for more on that issue. The second comes from the legal theory of conversion, which has never been applied to photographs of property. In fact, the case law leans the other way.

Note that releases are not needed even for people when the shots are used editorially, which can include gallery shows and book covers (see my blog). At a minimum, it follows that releases likewise would not be needed for photos of property when used editorially.

Photographers should stand up for their rights and not submit themselves to customary procedures that are not legally required. While it is safer to get a release, it is even safer to keep your camera in the bag. Don’t let fear inhibit your photography.

Take my advice; get professional help.
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