No topic we discuss attracts more attention than that of the need to obtain written, signed model releases. Broadly speaking, the need is motivated by the desire or need to employ the photographs in connection with the sale or promotion of any product, service, company or organization (whether a for profit enterprise or otherwise). In such scenarios model releases are required. Editorial and fine art uses are generally exempt.
Now there is a new consideration for any photographer or publisher wanting to publish photos without accompanying model releases. Specifically, the phenomenon commonly known as, “Revenge Porn” as been criminalized in several states including California. The use of a person’s image without their consent for the purposes of embarrassing, humiliating, harassing or demeaning such person irrespective of any profit motive may now constitute a crime in several states. Typically the subjects are naked, engaged in sexual or otherwise private and/or embarrassing acts. The postings are usually but not always, motivated by sheer animus. The subjects of these photos now have multiple avenues of legal recourse which include having the photographer/publisher of such images placed in cuffs. Search “Hunter Moore”, a person currently being held by the FBI following a very public indictment for running a site “dedicated” to such activities.
It may matter very little that at the time the subject photos were created the model was a willing participant in their creation. The various criminal statutes speak to the purpose and intent behind the unauthorized publication of such photos. An adult could of course, issue written consent to the use of embarrassing, nude or compromising photos via a written, signed model release. Porn actors and models for XXX rated materials do just that every day. As it is not at all likely that a former lover will permit herself/himself to be publicly humiliated by a former partner, a release which would permit the use of such images on social media or elsewhere would be exceptionally rare.
So if you are in possession of questionable images even if the subject willingly participated in their creation, and you don’t have a written, signed model release your use of such images on the web or elsewhere can now get you arrested. What seems like revenge by the goose can turn into legal revenge by the gander.
Today’s cliche’, “When in doubt, don’t”