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11-25-2013, 05:43 AM   #1
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Model releases for political campaign photos

The TL;DR version is, do I need to get model releases for everyone who appears in a photograph to be used in a political campaign? Potential use for images is both web and print.

Long version:

I am taking photos for a friend of mine who is running for state legislature. So far we've had one public event and I've been careful to try to frame the shots as to best mask the identity of the people he interacted with. I've read the ASMP FAQ on model releases and legal issues and have done Google searches, but nothing out there really addresses whether photos for a political campaign are considered "advertising," although the ASMP FAQ does say that advertising is a pretty broad category as far as the law is concerned. I have a feeling that campaign photos could be considered advertising but I'd love for someone to definitively say otherwise (nobody is making money while running the campaign but state legislators do get a very small salary)

If I'm running around getting good shots of candidate-in-question, it would be a maddening task to request a release signature from every person who happened to be in shots. But if it's necessary, then I'd be willing to do what it takes to cover my bases. We did have a sign-in station at the meet-and-greet that we've done, and in future similar events, it might be good to have the model release as part of the sign-in process. But that won't be applicable for events where the candidate is out in the community.

11-25-2013, 05:55 AM   #2
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Despite the role that money plays in elections, they are not commercial activities, they are political. I can't state categorically, but most images taken at or during campaign events are most likely considered to be "editorial" and thus generally exempt from "model release" requirements, even if used in follow-on campaign materials. They only time I'd see you needing a release would be if the person in the photo was alone and you were adding a caption or something claiming they said something for or against the candidate. but if they are with the candidate, his staff or part of a general crowd, then editorial use should protect you.

To be on the safe side though, you should have the candidate's staff research this question with a competent media rights attorney (ie: you shouldn't have to do it yourself).

If releases are needed, a simple statement on the sign-in form stating that "photos are being taken to be used during the campaign and that signing in constitutes consent" would likely be sufficient to cover things.


p.s. This is an officially blessed political thread in that it deals directly with a political issue related to photography.

Last edited by MRRiley; 11-25-2013 at 06:28 AM.
11-25-2013, 06:05 AM   #3
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I think that there is something about being in the public eye and photographs. As in, if you are participating, there is an assumption that you are willing to appear in photographs.
11-25-2013, 06:52 AM   #4

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Consult a knowledgeable attorney. A political campaign should be neck deep in lawyers.

11-25-2013, 08:36 AM   #5
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The following is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer.
Even if you would win a legal dispute, such a dispute could be a draining experience. You might want to consider protection via releases even if such releases aren't essential.

Last edited by smf; 11-25-2013 at 08:36 AM. Reason: fix typo
11-27-2013, 11:28 AM   #6
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One more point on “Model Releases”. The release is for the publisher not the photographer. As long as you are not the one doing the publishing then the photographer doesn’t need a release. Now if you sell the photo whomever you sell it to may want/need a model release but they will tell you when they are buying the writes to the photo that they need a model release. As they are the ones publishing they will know how it is going to be used. Commercial advertising then probably they will need or want a release from everyone in the photo regardless of where or how it was taken. If the photo is used in a political advertisement then maybe. Used as a news release then no model release required at all. Even if a model release would be needed the publisher may decide to use it anyway and just pay a stipend to whoever shows up and complains later. That is on publisher not the photographer. Having a model release may make the photo more commercial. As for being a party in a lawsuit, you can be sued anyway and doesn’t change the facts of your liability. Don’t want to be named in the suit don’t sell the photo.


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