Imagine one day you let a photographer, maybe even a friend, take some photos of you. Then imagine that a few years later your friends and colleagues alert you that you are the poster child of an HIV positive ad in a free AM New York Newspaper. This appears to be the situation for a Brooklyn woman now suing Getty Images for the infraction.
Avril Nolan, seen above, does not have HIV yet an image of her is being used in an ad with the slogan “I am positive (+),” and “I have rights,” reports the New York Post article. This, as I could imagine, could be a damaging situation to be in as a working professional. Even more confusing, to me at least, is how Getty Images published a stock image of Miss Nolan without her written consent. I say this because the submission requirements are very detailed and specific, which I've listed below directly from the Getty Website.
From the Getty Contributors Guidelines PDF.
RELEASES: SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS
Digital Model and Property Releases must be provided with each submission as detailed below.
Each model and property release must be named with a ‘Release Reference’ that is unique within
the relevant submission and be no more than 32 characters in length.
- The Release Reference and the filename of the digital release must be exactly the same, including the .jpg or .pdf extension.
In the Metadata Template, the Release Reference must be entered in the ‘Release References’ column for all model and property releases associated with each submitted Hi-Res Image File. It is particularly important that the exact filename of the release is entered, as we will use an automated computer script to match releases to Hi-Res Image Files from the data you supply.
Submission of Releases
Releases must be stored separately in an electronic sub-folder of the relevant submission folder on the submitted media (for an example, please see page 2) and must conform to the following requirements:
- File size: approximately 1MB
- Scan size: 100%
- Resolution: 72 dpi
- Color mode: RGB
- File type: JPEG, with .jpg extension attached or PDF, with .pdf extension attached.
Please note that images will be returned to a contributor for resubmission if releases are either missing, incomplete, invalid or the release key is missing from the metadata.
Except as provided by the terms of your Contributor Agreement, you must supply digital copies of valid releases where appropriate for each Image at the time that the Image is submitted (for certain exceptions in the case of unreleased travel material please see page 12). You must attach a visual reference of the model or property to the original release, which must be attached before you scan or capture the release– it cannot be a separate file. Upon request, you
must re-submit copies of any releases. You must not supply any Image that requires a release and for which you do not have a release at the time of your submission. You must conform to the Submission Requirements that are in effect at the time of submission regarding the sufficiency of releases in various countries. We may revise our Submission Requirements from time to time in our sole discretion, with prior written notice to you, with the revised requirements applicable to Images submitted after notice of the revision.
We require you to use Getty Images Mandatory Model and Property Releases as directed and supplied on www.gettyimages.com/contributors, with the exception of where shoots predate the effective date of the new releases or where images were originally shot as an outside assignment requiring the use of a client's release. We will reject any copy of a new release that is submitted without all the mandatory fields being completed
It is mandatory that all fields in Getty Images releases are filled in, with these exceptions:
- Model’s telephone number: recommended but not mandatory if not available;
- Model’s E-mail: recommended but not mandatory if not available;
- Ethnicity: strongly advised provided the model will agree to enter the information
- Shoot Reference
- In the property release, only one information box need be completed depending on whether the property owner is an individual or a corporation.
END OF DOCUMENT
With all of these strict requirements, it's hard to believe that something wasn't signed by someone at some point along the way. Having said that, is it likely that someone else signed these documents or forged them in order to get the submission to Getty on the model's behalf? With such little information available it's hard to know who exactly is at fault here but I'd like to bring up the fact that photographers should go above and beyond to be diligent about their paperwork and release forms in situations like these with copies and redundancies.
Another good fact to bring up to photographers selling their images as stock is to be clear to your models what the images could be used for. While this is a pretty worst case scenario situation for Miss Nolan, it could happen to your clients. If she had actually had signed the release forms, she could potentially have no case whatsoever against Getty Images who have the rights to use the images in almost any manner they see fit, without contacting you. Keep in mind that this type of situation could land you in hot water with your clients if you aren't crystal clear on where these images could end up.
Has anyone had similar situations like this?
UPDATE 9/22 11:45AM CST: Getty Images responds to this article with the following in an e-mail to me: "Statement from Getty Images – We empathize with and understand the sensitivity of Avril Nolan's situation. Getty Images had a model release and relied upon the photographer’s documentation when we made the image available for license."