Video release forms are designed to cover the legal aspects of the release of content for broadcast, publication, exhibition, or distribution on TV, radio, internet, or mobile device. This can be for a journalist documentary, market research interview, movie, online media (such as YouTube videos), presentations, or other publications such as courses and news.
For a video, image, or voice of an individual to be used in this manner (even if your company is not charging money for it), the third party appearing in the audio, video, or image must sign a video release form. Once the recipient of the form signs the document, the rights to use the image, audio, video, or likeness are obtained. In some cases, obtaining consent and rights may involve compensation or not. However, no further compensation other than that declared in the form is owed. Therefore, as a film/video maker or production company, you should aim to have a video release form at hand. Unfortunately, most indie filmmakers get confused over when to use release forms as they rarely have a budget that allows them to hire lawyers to advise them on the matter.
This article will divulge everything you need to know about how these forms work and why production companies should obtain one for their business.
Video Release Form
A video release form is a legal document used to obtain consent from subjects of an interview or video footage for their appearance in the form of audio, photos, or videos. This form varies in complexity based on the type of project in question. The form can thus be issued to actors, models, or ordinary people like interviewees as it is needed whenever mixing media and talent. With the signed form, you can use the subject’s image (image or video), voice (audio), and words for production purposes. The form can thus be a simple or complex document depending on the nature of production.
Important: Getting permission to use footage, voice, and audio transcription from subjects is needed before you can use anything you’ve recorded. You are not allowed to use their appearance in your content without explicit consent.
Why and When Do You Need a Release Form?
A video release form is a helpful document for production companies. There are several reasons why a production company may require a release form.
Companies use a video release form to obtain the rights of an image, voice, and audio for whatever purpose they have. For example, the content can be used in TV programs, magazine articles, or marketing media on your website. Having the subject sign the release form before filming protects the company from subject claims. This is because people can always change their minds and claim they do not want to appear in your content. While this would be admissible without a release form, it is not if the subject signed the release form. The subject cannot legally force the company not to use its footage. Thus, this protects the company from legal complications regarding the right to usage of footage in the future.
The release form should be used when a subject’s footage (audio, video, or image) is taken for company purposes. The form should be signed immediately after the subject agrees to be part of the project. This is to prevent any cancellations after filming has begun or questions that lead to delays are raised. However, the form must state how the company intends to use the content. Also, the video release form can only be enforced once the subject has signed it. Therefore, subjects can withdraw their involvement in a project if they haven’t signed the release form yet. As such, it is advisable to have them sign the release forms before getting involved in the projects to avoid last-minute revocations.
How Does a Video Release Form Work
The video release form operates in the same way as a contract. The subject agrees to allow the production company to use the footage, image, or audio of their appearance by signing the form.
Below are the steps to ensure you obtain a legally enforceable release form:
Lookup for privacy laws
Privacy laws bind a release form. It must thus be compliant with these laws. Therefore, before asking the subject to sign the document, review applicable state and federal laws to ensure your project and the form do not breach any privacy laws.
Obtaining permission from the client
The form should be written to grant the company sole discretion in using the recorded content. Therefore, use the video release form to obtain authorization from the subject. It is best to ensure the form is worded so that it obtains authorization to use the material for general use. If the authorization is contingent on payment, the form should clarify how much the subject will be paid.
Fill and sign the document
Once created, all the applicable details should be filled in. This information includes the client’s identifying information (name, address, contact details) and the effective date of the release form. Once completed, the subject can sign the form. If the subject is a minor (below the legal age as defined by the laws within the respective jurisdiction), a parent/guardian should sign the form on behalf of the subject.
Free Video Release Form Templates
It is crucial to ensure that you use a form that meets your needs and should be able to cover all aspects of a project as detailed by the type of content used (image, voice, or both). A template can help save time when looking for a form with clearly indicated vital information. Our readers can obtain such free templates from our site. The templates are readily downloadable and customizable.
What to Include in a Video Release Form
Video release forms will vary from case to case. Therefore, forms will have distinct clauses to suit the project’s needs. Some of the critical details to expect in a video release form include:
Forms of media
The form should highlight the different types of media the release form covers, presently and in the future. It would be best to consider listing any related material you can use in the future. Consider wording the form such that it covers still images, video, audio, and quotes from the subject.
Release forms can be used to obtain permission to transfer or sell the rights and consent of usage to third parties. This can be accomplished by incorporating a clause that allocates this authority in the video release form.
Tip: When filming or interviewing a minor, typically under 18 years, you must involve their parent or guardian. The parent/guardian is meant to give legal consent and should sign the release form on the minor’s behalf.
Commercial and non-commercial rights
To ensure the release form protects the company, it should state that the subject consents to the content being used for commercial and non-commercial purposes. Commercial purposes include marketing and financial gain uses. Non-commercial purposes include uses such as educational, informative, personal use, and artistic purposes. It is prudent to cover both purposes as, down the line, you might choose to use the material for purposes other than those initially planned.
Release forms can have a validity date. You should include an indefinite usage time limit unless otherwise instructed. With an indefinite time limit, the company can be sure to use the content in the future regardless without legal implications. If a time limit is included, it should be spelled out.
Ensure the release form covers all potential future uses, regardless of whether you intend to use the footage/content as a one-time show. Cover all future uses as you can never be too sure of any future opportunities where you’d need materials from your interviews and documentaries.
While the payment terms are outlined in a separate agreement, you can include a clause to indicate that payment was made to acquire the rights and consent to use the content. All payments made can be listed in the release form. A statement that clarifies this should be included if the subject receives no payment.
Making a Video Release Form
While a video release form will vary from project to project, there are essential elements that will appear on a standard release form. There are specific steps to creating a video release form.
Design/craft the form
You need to ensure the form fits your project requirements. One of the best ways to achieve this is by using a template. Conversely, you can design your release form according to company needs. Finally, make sure the form is legally compliant.
Name of the recipient and the production company
Once crafted, fill it out. Start by providing the identification details of the recipient/subject and production company. Capture this information as accurately as possible. For example, use the recipient’s legal name and the company’s official business name.
Payment terms (paid/non-paid)
Next, outline the payment terms of the transaction. Indicate how much the recipient/subject will be compensated for appearing in the footage. Record the payment amount in figures and words and supply the applicable currency unit. If there will be no compensation, clearly indicate that consent to use the material has been granted without payment.
Recipient’s contact information and signatures
Lastly, supply the recipient’s contact details. These include their residence, street address, city, state, zip code, phone, fax (if applicable), and email address. Afterward, have them sign the video release form. Ensure that the signing date is also inserted.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a release form even when I’m just making a video with friends?
In such a situation, it varies from case to case. For example, suppose you’re simply recording the content for personal use between friends or posting on your social media accounts without planning to distribute the material. In that case, you may not require a release form. However, ensure that everyone agrees to their image being posted online publicly. Conversely, if the content is part of a project such as a pilot film for entry into a film festival or intends to use the content for other purposes such as creating a film, it is best to obtain consent from all the friends in the footage.
Do you need a release form for a documentary interview even where the subject has consented to be filmed?
Always have your interviewees sign a release form even if they have stated that they consent to be recorded. Written consent is more enforceable.
Do I require a release form for filming employees?
If you’re filming employees in the workplace, maybe for a documentary or promotional material, you must ensure that you secure their consent. Ensure that each employee that appears as a participant in the footage signs the video release form. This prevents disputes in the future over which footage can or cannot be used. Note that an employer cannot consent on behalf of the employee.
Do you need a release form for filming in a courtroom?
In most cases, obtaining consent from subjects participating in the courtroom is unnecessary, as courtrooms are considered public places. However, this provision can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and case to case. You can always consult the court clerk to determine whether authorization is needed to film and use courtroom footage.
Do you need a release form for filming in prison?
Whether you need a release form for filming in prison depends on the situation. It will mostly lie at the warden’s discretion. In other cases, for example, to film convicted prisoners who are not entitled to the full legal rights of the general public, you will have to obtain their consent and that of the warden.