04. Property Releases

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What is a "Property Release"?

A property release is a written statement signed by the owner of a property that gives a photographer permission to use the property's photographs for any commercial purpose. This permission must be provided by the owner or copyright owner or trademark owner, etc.

We recommend that you use our standard property release (listed below):

When is a property release required?

1. When the subject property is protected by copyright

A copyright is an intellectual property right that protects authorship's original works, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. For example, the copyright is what protects your photos or illustrations from the unauthorized use by others. In most cases, copyright protection will endure for the author's life plus an additional 70 years.

Photographs that contain predominant elements of a copyrighted work may require a property release from the copyright owner.
This could be the case with full images of toys, dolls, model cars, planes, and buildings that might be protected by copyright. 

Generally, photographs of statues, fountains, and sculptures protected by copyright permanently located in public places do not require a property release to be photographed when the property is NOT the sole or primary subject of the photograph (i.e., cityscapes). 

On the other hand, if they are the photograph's central focus, then a property release should be required for any commercial use (Although in Spain there is no such limitation).

Regarding buildings (architectural work), the US copyright law and the Spanish one do not prevent the making, distributing, or public displaying pictures of the work if the building is ordinarily visible from a public space. 

Therefore in these cases, a property release should not be required from the copyright owner. Nonetheless, in France's case, a property release is required from the copyright owner if the building is the photograph's primary subject, and the picture is used for commercial purposes.

There is some confusion about whether building owners (and not necessarily the copyright owners) can prevent the use of photographs of their buildings. In general, if the building's picture is taken from a public place (not from the inside), the building/property owner cannot prevent the use of the photographs for commercial purposes unless the picture violates its right of privacy/publicity.

In the USA, for example, if the building identifies the owner, the owner's right to privacy might be violated, so a property release is required. A property release is necessary if the photograph is taken from the interior of a house or other building. If you are not sure whether photos of a building need a release or not, you should ask.

2. When the subject matter is a trademark or a service mark

Brands or trademarks are defined as a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, logos, or designs that identify and distinguish the source of one party's goods from those of others. It indicates the origin of the object or goods. Examples of trademarks are the Nike "Swoosh," the Cadillac symbol, or the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that it identifies and distinguishes a service's source rather than a product.

A photograph of an object rarely infringes a registered trademark associated with the object if the brand or logo is not the photograph's primary subject. To violate a trademark or a service mark, the photograph's use has to create confusion about the source of the goods or services or imply endorsement or association. It is the use of the photo that can cause problems, but photographers should avoid this removing logos and trademarks from the photographs to be on the safe side.

Here again, the photographer should remember that copyright and trademark laws vary from one country to another. A photograph that may not require a property release in one country may need one in another country. The photographer needs to be aware of the laws applicable in each case, and whenever possible, to obtain a property release.

What should a property release include?

The information required is the same as for model releases. The person who grants the permission should be the authorized signatory for the property. A clear description of the property should be included in the property release, along with a photograph of the same.

A photo with Property Release can be widely sold for commercial uses.

Legal Matters: Property Releases

A photo without Property Release can be sold for specific purposes, but not widely, as it will depend on several legal factors such as for what use and what building is shown in the image.

Legal Matters: Property Releases

If you have any doubts, or need further information, please contact


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