Guide to Media Release Forms [+Templates]

By The GoCanvas Team on January 7, 2022

Many industries rely on release forms to protect their businesses from legal liabilities. Being on the wrong end of a legal suit can be costly and a huge distraction for a business. Release forms are widely used by the professional services industry to help protect the company’s interests in case of a dispute. This article covers what you need to know about media release forms for photography, video, and other forms of media. We will cover how you can manage these legal documents digitally using mobile forms and templates to get you started.

What Is a Media Release Form? 

Also known as a general release, a media release form is a legal document that shields you from legal liability when undertaking a given project. It’s written consent or formal acknowledgment that the person signing it relinquishes their legal rights to the project’s materials. A release binds the releasee to the terms outlined within an agreement, giving you the creative latitude you need with your business project. 

A release ensures that an actor, model, or a participant may not require you not to use footage after a change of heart. Or someone asking you to remove an image or a scene they’re featured in because it’s not flattering enough. Or the location where you shot a project decides they don’t want to be in it anymore. 

What Types of Organizations Need Media Release Forms?

Release forms are a standard fixture in the creative sector. They’re by photography, film, music, documentary, and radio companies to ensure they wholly own the rights to any content they capture. It’s a bulletproof way to ensure the people taking part in a project don’t lay a legal claim to some of the material.

What is the Purpose of a Media Release Form?

Release forms help you avoid legal troubles that could result if a subject in your project were to withdraw their consent to use some material in your project. Without a release form, someone in your photos, footage, or audio clip could change their mind and forbid you from using that part of the footage. 

If that were to happen, you’d need to restructure your entire project to accommodate their demand. That could often delay or derail your project, leading you to incur huge inconveniences or expenses. For instance, using a subject’s image or likeness could trigger legal proceedings and land you in hot water. 

When Do You Need a Media Release Form?

You need a release form if any image, footage, or audio clip in your project is likely to be used commercially. In this context, commercial intent implies money-generating activities. These could include creating sales or promoting a product, idea, or event.

If there’s a remote chance of monetizing the content of your project, you’re better off getting the participants and the subjects to sign a media release form. It’s better to have a signed document and not need it than to need one, but you can’t trace the people in the picture or video footage. 

You may not need a signed release form when capturing images or footage for editorial purposes. That is when they accompany a journalism piece or a news article. However, the distinction between editorial and commercial use can get blurry. Hence, you must distinguish the limits when licensing a project. For instance, an image with a group of people is fair game for a fashion magazine covering an event from a journalistic perspective. 

However, if the magazine used the same image to advertise the venue hosting the event, or the company hosting the event, that’d amount to commercial use. With a signed media release form, you could monetize the image or footage, and both you and the people involved could make some money. 

You also need to consider if the people or the property appearing in the image or footage are identifiable. Although what’s identifiable is a grey area, you can drill it down to a simple question. Can someone familiar with the property or person in your project identify them? If so, you should get the subject or property owner to sign a release form. 

How Do You Write a Media Release Form?

There are many digital templates available online that you can use for media release forms. These templates can be used as a starting point for your business and you can customize them based on your needs or the advice of a lawyer. Consulting an attorney can help you ensure that your release form covers all bases. 

For a release form to successfully protect your business, it must be legally enforceable in court if it comes down to it. Some of the crucial information in a release includes: 

  • Name of the parties involved, i.e., releasor and releasee
  • Detailed information about the project 
  • Explicit information of the permissions granted 
  • Any special considerations, including payment obligations or credit, if any.
  • A space for all parties to sign

Get Started with GoCanvas Media Release Form Templates

Looking for a digital template to use as your media release form? GoCanvas can help you manage all of your release form documentation online through our secure cloud-based platform. Share documents, collect signatures, and manage the entire process using a mobile device or tablet – even without internet connection. 

Designed with the professional services industry in mind, we offer a waiver and release app that is made specifically for professional photographers and photography studios. This app template outlines the conditions of the release, including the legal rights for usage and reproduction rights for images, voice, and videos. You can customize the form based on your unique business needs using our easy-to-use software for mobile forms.

If you’re looking for a different type of release form, GoCanvas has thousands of additional templates you can find in our online app store. Contact our team for more information or sign up today for a free trial.