Sample Media Consent Forms:

Archiving a WELSTech listserve conversation regarding sharing of member and student photos on congregation and school web sites - April 2011.

Ken Becker, Star of Bethlehem, New Berlin, WI - If we take pictures of random people at an even at our church or school, are there any issues placing those pictures on our web site? Do we need permission from everyone on the pictures before we post them?

Stephen Ylvisaker - Need permission - probably not, particularly of members. It would be courteous to get permission before posting online, though.

P.S. There is an online forum of photo educators and professional photographers (Photoforum) that often discusses issues such as this, and would also be a good place to raise this question.

Heather King - Actually, you do need signed releases for any photos not taken at a public place and used for commercial use. While your church services and activities may be open to the public, the church is not legally considered a public place. Additionally, while the church is a non-profit, using photos on the website

would be considered a commercial use.

The exception here would be for newsletters or news items on the website. Then you might have a leg to stand on to argue that the photos are being used for news purposes and not commercially to promote the church. That really raises the question of if you should, though. When it comes to the web, I would strongly recommend that you get written permission before using a recognizable photo of anyone, even if you technically have the right to use it for news items...that goes double for children.

While we're on the subject, something that often gets overlooked is getting permission from the photographer too. If a member drops off a disc of photos to be nice and to ensure the church has a copy of them for their records, technically the person who took the photos has the right to decide how they are used. I've found it is very rare for anyone to ensure they get permission from the photographer to use the pictures on the website or for any other promotional use, but really there should be a signed release on file from them too.

Jason Petoskey, Wyoming, MI - It has been my understanding that for children you do, I know at our school and church we do state that pictures that are taken can be used in promotional material. I am not 100% sure on the actual law or requirements for this.

Heather King -

>>Loving Shepherd school states that photos may be taken and used on the web site UNLESS the parents sign a form forbidding that.

Whether or not that policy would hold up, there is a difference as to how the photo is used. Behind a password protected area of media galleries for parents...likely OK. Used in a newsletter or news item on the site, again OK. To be used on the main public website where the purpose is to promote the school, likely not OK.

The rules are the same for adults and children...all that varies is who can legally sign the release.

I know there is a tendency in churches and schools to think that we will fall under a different category than businesses, but when it comes to privacy and copyright issues...we don't. I would also really encourage folks to look at it from a different angle. Why wouldn't we want to afford our members and school families the same rights and practices that we would want a neighborhood grocery store to show if they wanted to use a photo for promotion on their website. Yes, it can be extra work but it seems the least we can do for free use of a photo for school/church promotional purposes.

A little reference from the ASMP website:

"When do I need a model release?

The "it depends" factors here are which jurisdiction(s) we are talking about, who the subject is, and what you are going to do with the photos. Model releases are used mainly because of rights of privacy. Those are matters of state law, so you could have very different answers depending on whether you are talking about New York or California. Some states also have rights of publicity, and if your subject is a celebrity or a public figure, you may have some additional restrictions.

The basic, general rule is that you need a release from people to use photographs showing a recognizable likeness of them for purposes of trade or advertising. The other side of the general rule is that you usually do not need a release for strictly editorial uses. So the first question is whether the person is recognizable from the photo. If not, you don't need a release. Whether a person is recognizable is generally a very easy standard for the person making the claim to meet.

If the person is recognizable, the second question is whether the proposed use is for an advertisement (which is very broadly defined). If it is, then you need a release. If it is not, then you go to the next question.

That question is whether the usage is for a commercial purpose, such as a corporate brochure, product packaging, a calendar, a website that is intended to enhance or promote a business interest, etc. If it is, then you need a release."

Mike Plocher, Director of Technology, St. Paul's Lutheran School, New Ulm, MN - See attached Student Publicity Release form (.doc | .pdf).

This form is a pretty inclusive form for schools to use that deals specifically with compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act . It focuses on student publicity in the area of photo, print, video, audio press releases and school website.

The form could probably be modified for church use since it covers multiple forms of release.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. More information about FERPA

John Pimentel, Professional Network Design Services - It is always good practice and common courtesy to get permission from individuals before posting their likeness or any personally identifiable information on the WWW.

This is especially true for Children. With web predators being what they are, you don't want to give fuel to these people, and for sure not without parent's permission.

It is also a good idea to keep such images in a members only section where folks that don't have a genuine interest in seeing personal photos will not have unrestricted access.

I am also not sure about the legal impact posting such photos would have, but I am speaking as a parent of young children. I for sure can say that I would not appreciate having pictures of any of my family members posted without prior knowledge.