Thursday, March 3, 2011

Does travel photographer need property release?

Dear Rich: I have an opportunity to do some video work for a travel related website distributor. They want video tours of certain cities, highlighting the attractions. I was under the impression that I needed property releases from any property I depict in a video or photograph. Now I'm not sure. The video would have scenes of attractions such as museums, theaters, ball parks, amusement parks, bars, restaurants, casinos, etc. I will limit myself to shooting from public property such as sidewalks. I may also have people in these shots. Where would I stand? The client expects me to sign a contract saying I am responsible for obtaining all releases needed. In the U.S., if you're photographing from public property, usually no release is needed. There are two exceptions: structures such as statues and memorials that qualify as copyrightable works; and buildings that have achieved trademark status. You may not need to worry about either of these exceptions as we discussed in a previous post. If you're creating videos outside the U.S., you should review a principle known as Panoramafreiheit. As for the people in your videos, you're generally fine photographing people in public places as they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Problems will develop if the website deliberately either: (1) makes these people appear in a bad light -- for example, the travel video has a section entitled "The Amsterdam Red Light District" and shows two tourists who do not work there; or (2) you use screenshots of individuals in a manner that makes it seem as if they are promoting the site -- for example, the website creates banner ads using screenshots of individuals seen in your videos.
Property Release. If you need to obtain a release, here's a standard property release (also known as a 'location release') from our book, Getting Permission. You can use this release for buildings that are copyright protected or are not viewable from public space.
Property Release