Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Model Release Passes Muster

By: Carolyn Wright

Photographers often follow certain legal practices to protect themselves,
but cannot be sure that they will work when challenged. One such
example is using a model release to obtain a model’s permission to use
photographs taken of him or her in specific ways. The good news is that
the standard model release was recently put to the test, and it passed
with flying colors.

In 2002, Russian tennis player, Anastasia Myskina, who then was 20
years old, posed for photographs by Mark Seliger. Seliger first
photographed Myskina for the Gentleman's Quarterly's 2002 "Sports"
issue and then photographed her topless. Myskina had signed a model
release that said she consented to the use of her name and the pictures
by the magazine and by "others it may authorize, for editorial purposes."

After winning the French Open in 2004, a Russian newspaper published
the topless photos. Myskina filed an $8 million lawsuit against the
publisher, Conde Nast Publications Inc., Gentleman's Quarterly and
Seliger alleging emotional distress and economic injury.

The New York judge who presided over the case held that Myskina's
rights were not violated despite her insistence that she did not
understand the signed model release and was not fluent in English at
the time. Instead, the Judge stated that, "absent allegations of fraud,
duress or some other wrongdoing, Myskina's claimed misunderstanding
of the release's terms does not excuse her from being bound on the
contract. Nor can she avoid her obligations under the release because
of her purported failure to read its contents."

Even though the photographer allegedly told Myskina that the topless
photos were for “himself,” the Judge found that the oral agreement
contradicted the plain language of the written agreement and was not
admissible. The Judge then dismissed the case.

As a photographer, it is important to protect yourself as much as
possible. Fortunately, the model release is one way that has been
proven to be effective.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Copyright 2005 Carolyn E. Wright All Rights Reserved


Carolyn E. Wright, Esq., has a unique legal practice aimed squarely at
the needs of photographers. A pro photographer herself, Carolyn has
the credentials and the experience to protect photographers. She’s
represented clients in multimillion dollar litigations, but also has the
desire to help new photographers just starting their careers. Carolyn
graduated from Emory University School of Law with a Juris Doctor, and
from Tennessee Tech Univ. with a Masters of Business Administration
degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in music.

She wrote the book on photography law. “88 Secrets to the Law for
Photographers," by Carolyn and well-known professional photographer,
Scott Bourne, is scheduled for fall 2005 release by Olympic Mountain
School Press. Carolyn also is a columnist for PhotoFocus Magazine.

Carolyn specializes in wildlife photography and her legal website is

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