Shooting French Models in France

I recently answered this question on the Seattle ASMP listserve, and it seemed like a good little nugget to share: Are there special release for photographing French (citizens) models in France? Short answer: yes. Long answer: read on.

If you are shooting commercially in France, French citizen models have special rights that are more restrictive than (to my knowledge) anywhere else in the world. Basically, releases there are not good for life – the models can effectively cancel the agreement to use their image or likeness on intervals of 3-5 years. Typical French releases there include a provision that the contract is binding for 5 years, after which time if the model chooses to contact the photographer and cancel the agreement, they can do so. Releases usually also include some auto-renew language such that if the model does NOT contact the photographer that the release renews on additional three year increments.

This typically doesn’t effect commercial ad shooters since rights are usually highly monitored anyway according to the campaign, but it really undermines photographers shooting stock there. As a work around, if you are shooting in France it’s likely more efficient to use non-French citizen models if possible. Otherwise you may get a call in 5 years…and have a heck of a mess on your hands.

Separately, this does not apply if you’re just shooting French speaking people (citizens of France or not) outside of France. That is, if you’re shooting people in Tahiti or French people here in the USA, a regular US release translated into French should cover you.

You can get a copy of both releases – French in France, and just USA release translated into French – here at Getty’s release page. The also explain the difference nicely.

Disclaimer: I’m no lawyer – the info herein is just what mine tells me and what I’ve learned from shooting over there a bunch.

Lastly, it’s an interesting topic -legally and ethically- that the laws there do not allow the model to sign away his or her rights permanently. Since the ethical discussion could make for a long blog entry, I’ve just put the nuts and bolts here. But what do you think ethically, is this a good thing??

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Chase Jarvis says:

Indeed. We do our best to hire other European models rather than juggle the liability after the fact. And so far, we’ve had great success bringing in other people for a reasonable cost.

Stew Rogers says:

Thanks for the info, interesting and thought provoking for those of us based in France

Chase Jarvis says:

True, but if the law is effectively on their side, they are always able to renegotiate, despite whatever the language is the release. The “hard cost” mystery is never removed… Your work around might be effective, but sadly, even after signing your agreement, they still can’t sign away their rights (just like you cannot truly waive liability in the USA, despite signing that release the says that if you die bungee jumping you’re not going to sue the company….you’re parents will still sue the bungee company and probably win ;) Besides that, you gotta trust me, the last thing you want on your hands is a legal dispute in France. Ultimately, that’s the point of this blog entry. There is no definitive answer – and that’s the problem.

Colin Lenton says:

Couldn’t you effectively work around this law by writing language in the release that stipulates something to the effect of , after x amount of years said model will recieve x amount compensation for allowing continued use of their image?

This way, the French model still has the right to pull out – but you’re able to offer an incentive to them for continued use of their image.

In full disclosure I’m not a lawyer and I skipped most of my law classes in college to go take pictures.

Chase Jarvis says:

seems fair, but what about a potential buyout? French law prohibits it. So even if they want to decide to get a buyout, you can’t? Hmmm. Seems fishy

Carson Blume says:

I think it is a good thing that they get some control over there image they are just as much as a part of the image as we are, and we get to set usage rights so they should be able to too.

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