Model Release Madness
Stockxpert has been criticized by some contributors for being "unfairly" strict on model release requirements. The common complaint is usually that because other microstock sites accept these images, then Stockxpert should too or else it won't be competitive.
The law basically states that permission must be granted by identifiable people who are subjects of images used for commercial purposes. The idea is that human subjects of commercial photographs have a say in whether or not they want to be associated with a product or service.
The question then is what's considered identifiable?
There are clear cases of images that require model releases for commercial usage:
Then there are not so clear cases that include people in the far distance, people with blurred faces, with backs to the camera, wearing uniforms with numbers, not the main subject of the photo, etc.
This is that dubious grey area of the law that leaves it up to the individual microstock site to define and set guidelines for model release requirements, and these guidelines are determined in part by how much risk a site wants to take. Unfortunately, it isn't until a lawsuit is filed and settled that the involved parties know whether the site took too much risk.
So who exactly is at risk? Pretty much everyone. Site, photographer, and customer. That's right. The customer too. If an image buyer uses an unreleased image that has been determined to contain identifiable people, then the buyer could ultimately be held accountable.
So, in the end, a better-safe-than-sorry model release policy benefits and protects everyone, and it should be seen as a competitive advantage because it contributes to the quality and reliability of the product and service.
For more information on model releases, read Dan Heller's excellent Model Release Primer.