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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Do photos of dead people require a model release form to be sold?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30938points) March 26th, 2010

I have a client who wants to purchase some old photos of mine. A Convalescent Home wants them for a brochure and web project. It’s a big project with 13 different web sites and brochures to market the entire Midwest.

I’ll be doing new photos of staff and clients, but they also want access to some similar photos I took 25 years ago for another Convalescent Home in Los Angeles. No doubt whatsoever that these people are dead and gone. That is not up for debate here, so please assume it is as I say.

I could not allow the photos to be used without written consent of the people if they were alive. But do I need to worry about selling these photos if the people are sure to be dead?

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14 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

BTW… The Los Angeles Convalescent home never bought the full rights to the photos either. So I’m not legally bound to get their permission. This is between me and the dead guys only. Would their family members have any authority in this matter?

dpworkin's avatar

Interesting question. Why not shop out identifying features just to err on the side of caution?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Good suggestion. The risk of exposure is high considering the marketing territory. But I’d like to be legal on this either way.

dpworkin's avatar

I do think that the rights revert to the Estate in such cases, since we know that for celebrities the families continue to profit from the images, but there is a question here about “reasonable expectation” I would think: could these families have expected to profit from those images?

There are a couple of lawyers around; I’d be very curious to hear what they have to say. My inexpert opinion is that you are probably pretty safe.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Calling all Copyright Attorney’s!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@dpworkin thank you. I think you’re right about it being a fairly safe hit. I wouldn’t know where to begin to find the families involved. So long ago.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’m trying to imagine seeing a photo of my grandfather appear on a web site by chance. I would definitely recognize him, but it would be very weird to see nonetheless. Not sure if I would take offense to it or not. Not sure if I would pursue compensation or not. Unsure if I would have the right to do so.

xRIPxTHEREVx's avatar

Nah, I don’t think that they’d mind now.

crystalvegan's avatar

I’m a photographer and I am always very cautious about model releases…you can never be too sure. If a living relative of the deceased were to see one of these images, they might cause some trouble for you. That would be the only thing I would worry about. If it were me, I would just go ahead with it. The chances of anything happening are seriously slim to none.

softtop67's avatar

We do a ton of photo DRM. If the person was photographed in a studio or a setup shot, the family would be entitled to retain the rights if not originally signed over to the photographer. If this was a candid shot, in a place where there is no reasonable expectaion of privacy, then it is public domain

lazydaisy's avatar

Well, I don’t think I would mind if someone wanted to use photos of my dad. I am sure that I wouldn’t want compensation, but I would like to be asked. Even just as a courtesy.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@softtop67 thanks. More details are in order for your scenario does not match my situation exactly.

The photography was neither studio or set up. It was not candid either, nor out in the public.

All shots were produced on the grounds of a particular private Convalescent home. No shots were set up though the subjects did know they were being photographed and did cooperate with my art direction.

Basically I walked around taking photos of what people were already doing, such as playing board games, dining, or following a doctor to a patients room to check blood pressure. Might be three old guys sitting around just talking, and also looking and smiling at the camera. They were already there, nothing set up. But I did arrange them from time to time for the composition.

Legal to use or not?

softtop67's avatar

Did you have them sign a release for you to use their images? If you arranged them from time to time this would qualify as “set up”. I work for a large media firm and I can tell you we wouldnt touch these. And the fact that some were going through a medical procedure, you have to worry about hippa too…this is trouble waiting to happen

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Got it. Much appreciated.

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