The so-called Monkey Selfie case, just settled in mid-September, shows just how careful you need to be with getting appearance releases
The monkey in question was a macaque in Indonesia who took a grinning selfie using wildlife photographer David Slater’s camera. Wikipedia Commons made the photo public domain, distributed it free, and ignored requests to take the photo down. PETA then sued, claiming proceeds from the selfie should go to charities protecting macaques. In the settlement Slater will donate 25 percent of proceeds from sales or usage of the monkey selfies to charities in Indonesia that protect crested macaques, reported Angela M. Gosnell on USA Today Network – Tennessee. A video producer for knoxnews.com, Gosnell added, “In a world where photographers already struggle repeatedly with copyright infringement, this is a case of historical detriment to the industry.”
To protect yourself and your company in connection with humans, you need an appearance release for commercial use of a person’s name, likeness, voice or appearance. Commercial use versus informational use gets tricky in today’s world of advertorial content and social media. You don’t need a release when the person cannot be recognized in the photo or video (e.g., if the photo includes only the person’s hands or if the image is purposely blurred).
When in doubt – or if varied uses could occur – get a release. Following are tips for obtaining appearance releases.
So avoid any monkey business that could throw a monkey wrench into your protecting legal rights. Get that appearance release!
Lori Beam is a former board member of KCDMA and an attorney at Seigfreid Bingham where she chairs the firm’s Advertising, Marketing and Promotions practice group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-265-4110.
* This article is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.