Interview and Property Releases
There are occasions when a release is required for a purpose other than using someone’s name or image. Below are two other forms of release: a release to use statements from an interview; and a release permitting use of photos of a building.
Most reporters and writers do not obtain signed interview releases because they presume that by giving the interview, the subject has consented to the interview and, therefore, cannot claim invasion of privacy. In addition, many interview subjects don’t have the ability or inclination to execute a written release -- for example, a person interviewed by telephone for a newspaper story on a deadline.
Nevertheless, a written interview release can be useful. It can help avoid lawsuits for libel, invasion of privacy, or even copyright infringement (since the speaker’s words may be copyrightable). It’s wise to obtain a signed release if the interview is lengthy, will be reprinted verbatim (for example, in a question and answer format), or if the subject matter of the interview is controversial.
It is common for an interview subject to ask to read or edit the interview or to have some comments removed or kept “off the record.” Any agreement that is made with the interview subject (including an agreement for anonymity) should be documented. Failure to honor the arrangement may give rise to a lawsuit for monetary damages.
If the interview subject is willing to proceed with the interview but does not want to sign a release, ask if he or she will make an oral consent on audio- or videotape. Although not as reliable as a written release, a statement such as, “I consent to the use of my statements in the Musician’s Gazette,” will provide some assurance of your right to use the statement.
Interview Release Agreement
An interview release is a hybrid agreement, part release and part license. The release below is suitable if you are seeking permission to use an existing interview or to conduct a new interview.
A digital version of this form is included on the forms CD.
Explanation for Interview Release Agreement
- It’s possible that the interview may already have been recorded, in which case the language “consent to the recording of my statements and” can be stricken from the Grant section. If the interview will be included in more than one work, list all works and change the term “Work” to “Works” throughout the agreement. Unlimited or blanket releases for interviews are not common, partly because subjects usually are not prepared to relinquish unlimited rights.
- If seeking unlimited rights (the interview can be used for any purpose) substitute the following Grant section:
For consideration that I acknowledge, I consent to the recording of my statements and grant to _________________________ (“Company”) and Company’s assigns, licensees, and successors the right to copy, reproduce, and use all or a portion of the statements (the “Interview”) for all purposes, including advertising, trade, or any commercial purpose throughout the world and in perpetuity.
I grant the right to use my image and name in connection with all uses of the Interview and waive the right to inspect or approve any use of my Interview.
- If the interview subject does not wish to waive the right to inspect the final work, strike that sentence and arrange for the interview subject to provide approval.
- If the release is executed after the interview has been transcribed, it is helpful to attach a transcription of the interview to the release agreement. This provides an assurance that the interview subject has notice of what was said in the interview. Add a sentence to the Grant section such as, “A complete transcription of the interview is attached and incorporated in this Agreement.” The Release section provides protection against subsequent legal claims.
- If the interview subject is under 18, a parent or guardian’s consent is required.
In some cases, you’ll need to obtain a release for using pictures of places. You may find this odd—after all, if a building can be viewed publicly, why is permission required to use an image of it? Over the last few decades some buildings have earned protection under both trademark or copyright laws, or both. Trademark law will protect a building’s appearance under very limited circumstances. If a distinctive-looking building is used to signify a business’s services, you cannot use an image of that building in a manner that will confuse consumers. For example, the Sears Tower in Chicago functions as a trademark; if you intend to use it in the foreground of an advertisement, you must obtain permission from the Sears Company. Use of the building’s image for informational purposes, such as in magazine article, does not require permission.
Is permission needed to use the image of a trademarked building on a postcard or poster? That issue arose when a photographer sold images of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A federal court of appeals permitted the use of the trademarked building on posters and did not consider it to be a trademark infringement. (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame v. Gentile, 134 F.3d 749 (6th Cir. 1998).)
Copyright protection also extends to architectural works, specifically for architectural works created after March 1, 1989. However copyright protection also has limitations. You do not need a release to photograph a building or property visible from a public place, but you do need permission to photograph and reproduce images of a building protected by copyright and not visible from a public place. Entering private property to photograph a building or property may also trigger a claim of trespass. To avoid such claims, photographers, publishers, and filmmakers use a property release, sometimes known as a “location release.”
Dear Rich: So, is an agent who is helping a buyer, who is not trespassing, who is invited into a home for sale (via a Realtor’s ad), allowed to snap photos and publish them online for all to see, without specific expressed permission? Or is the permission implied with allowing 100+ buyers into the vacant home? Or is it a conditional invitation with limitations on rights to photograph?
Just because you were invited onto someone’s property, vacant or not, does not imply the right to take photos. The best argument you could make would be that the seller or the seller’s agent was aware of you taking photos and didn’t complain. (For example, the Dear Rich Staff was recently at the Google offices in San Francisco, taking a video of the free lunch -- it was pretty impressive stuff, gourmet pizza, fresh broccoli, incredible salads, and free wheat grass juice in these little shot glasses -- until a Google rep explained that no photos were permitted. Okay, we got the point, even though we still like looking at the video when we’re hungry.) The next question is whether permission is required.
After all, permission is only needed if you are violating someone else’s rights. Someone may claim your posted photos violate copyright law -- a long shot -- assuming there’s something copyrightable in the photos (artwork on the walls?); or someone may possibly claim invasion of privacy (although if the house is vacant and hundreds of people are walking through it, that’s a tough argument to make). It may be a violation of contract if ads for the home state “No Photos.” It may violate someone’s right of publicity (wow, check out this cool right of publicity site) if you photo them in the house and you use that photo to sell the home, blah, blah, blah. The real issue is why are you asking this? Are you being hassled because you’re an agent who showed up at a home for sale, took pictures, and posted them without permission? If that’s the case -- and since agents need to work together cooperatively in most communities (especially in a tough real estate market) -- don’t you want to work this out with the people you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis? It’s always more satisfying to “get to yes” without bringing in the legal blowhards.
Property Release Agreement
This form may be used as a property release.
A digital version of this form is included on the forms CD.
Explanation for Property Release
- The Grant section allows access to photograph the property (on the dates provided in the Dates of Use section) and the right to use the photographs for the purposes listed in the agreement.
- If payment is required for the release, indicate the amount in the paragraph after the Dates of Use section.
- The owner provides an assurance of ownership in the Warranty, Indemnity, & Release section and agrees to defend the Company from anyone else with a property ownership claim.