I am the DP (director of photography) on a streaming TV show filmed in New York state. I am not employed by the production company, but rather work as a contractor with them. The production company gets model releases for all the actors and actresses that play roles in the show. I ended up playing a bit part in the show as a news camera man that I personally captured the scene using an aerial camera while I was in shot.

This brought up an interesting legal question for me. Does the production company need a model release for my appearing in the show or does my DP agreement already cover it through my transfer of copyright ownership? As I understand it, as the cameraman, owner of the production equipment being used and the individual making the artistic decisions about the photography, the footage inherently is my copyright, which is then transferred automatically to the production company by contract. Since I am filming myself, it would seem to imply consent to be filmed. I'm unsure, however, if this consent would transfer along with the copyright or not.


Copyright and Model Releases are separate legal concepts

Copyright belongs to the "author" of a "literary" work - the person(s) who first fixed the the work in permanent form (or possibly not - copyright in spoken words is possible in some jurisdictions). For a product of multiple authors (like a film) they are each an author for the purposes of copyright. Producers, directors, camera operators, cinematographers, sound technicians, screenwriters, editors, actors etc. are all authors of a film.

A Model release is a different creature entirely - it is permission from the subject of a photo, video or sound recording to use their likeness for commercial purposes. They will need one of these.

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  • So if a work was transferred from one company to another would the model releases have to be gathered separately for the new company to make commercial use of the footage? If not, why wouldn't the same thing apply to my implied consent in making commercial use (selling) the footage of myself to the production company be the same thing, but then again, I suppose that transfer may not be commercial usage since I don't have to have the model releases to be able to transfer copyright of the footage itself to the production company. – AJ Henderson Oct 23 '17 at 4:54
  • No, the model has released the "likeness" independently of who can commercially exploit it. – Dale M Oct 23 '17 at 4:58
  • Right, so if I'm the model and I'm selling the footage for commercial use, would than imply I'd have to sign my own model release to make it carry through? That's the odd part of the situation, since I'm both model and the person capturing it. Put another way, if a model took a self portrait and sold it to a magazine would they also have to include a model release? If not, why is this situation different? – AJ Henderson Oct 23 '17 at 5:03
  • If the law requires a model release (and not all jurisdictions do) then a prudent publisher would ensure that they had one for every commercial use. Bear in mind that using a photo of you in an article about you is not "commercial" use - using one in an advert is. – Dale M Oct 23 '17 at 5:09

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