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Old January 12th, 2008, 10:35 PM   #1
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Talent release - how recognizable is 'recognizable'?

So when a person is making video for hire or reward, they usually need to get releases signed by all persons who are "recognizable". (There seem to be exceptions such as in public places like town parades etc., but that's not what this post is about)
Most of us could recognize ourselves in a video no matter how pixelated or 'in the shadows' we are. But a stranger, presented with a video of a distant face on a stage and a pile of photographs might be hard pressed to choose the correct photo.
So where does the line (probably wide and grey) fall between "recognizable" and "not recognizable"? Another way of asking the question might be "who needs to be able to recognize the subject"?
My specific situation is dance competitions and I want to post samples on my web site. I have releases for some dancers in group dances but not all. I'm working on pixelating the clips whenever faces become easily distinguishable one from the other, but considering I want to show the clarity of the shots, this is counter-productive.
If anyone knows of any guidelines, I'd really appreciate learning about them! If they're guidelines for Canada, that'd be a bonus...
Thanks in advance.
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Old January 14th, 2008, 03:27 PM   #2
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What matters is what "recognizable" means to anyone who might sue you . . .
and then it becomes a question that a court must decide. In the case of a dance recital some dancer might claim they were recognizable based on how they dance.

I'd imagine there is case law that can be interpreted in many different ways that hints at a definition, but it's prob. going to vary on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances in which footage is shot. You need to talk to a solicitor with experience with the issue.
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Old January 17th, 2008, 07:34 PM   #3
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My two cents here tends to come from what I have run across when submitting stock footage. In these cases the idea of requireing a model release when there is a recognizable person comes up all the time.

So my rule of thumb generally comes down to this....if you could take a still of the video and compare that to the actual person side by side could anyone identify it as the same person.

So what does this mean in practice? Well say you have a shot of a person standing at the shoreline and a person walking behind them in the distance. If this was shot straight on the shoreline subject where you could see their face or other defining aspects I would need a release for that foreground subject. If the person walking behind was out of focus or due to the resolution/distance of the video you could not clearly see them, I wouldn't secure a release.

If the same shoreline subject was shot from behind, with no facial features or other significant semblances I wouldn't secure a release. While the walking subject's face was clearly visible for even a fraction of a second, I would want a release for that subject.

Silohettes are another time where identifying features are obscurred and I would not need a release.

If you feel that the dancers you do not have release for appear visibly enough for a clear possiblility of identification, then you need a release. If focus/definition/lighting etc obsure them enough that identity would be impossible to confirm then a release may not be warranted.

What else might help if this event is of kids or a group that needs some form of registration is to build the model release into the events registration forms. It should be clear in these forms that the event is to be videotaped and all participants are waiving certain rights. Signatures, dates, guardians, contact information and quite likely a terms of use inclusion that suggest that there is no compensation to the particpants regarding the video, and that it will be used in a non-sexual and non-defamatory way are often the norm.

Bear in mind....I am so far away from being anything like a lawyer that my advice is only that....advice, not legal.

Peter brought up the interesting point that even certain characteristics may be identifiable so every situation creates it's own nuances of recognizable possibilities. As well his advice to seek a lawyer in cases where it is in question is highly advisable.

A quick way to start to see where releases are commonly used is to check out a online stock footage site like revostock.com

Here you would find numerous examples of people shots ranging from full shots with complete model releases to a large quantity of shots that don't for fairly obvious reasons (such as silohette, leg down shots, backs to the camera, etc.) This might help you see some other examples that are screened by their staff for legal issues in regard to model releases.

2 cents....well mabey more like a nickle, sorry for rambling.
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