Property and model releases explained

Our comprehensive guide to releases

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This page tells you everything you need to know about model and property releases. We explain what a release is, when and why you need one, and explain some of the unwritten rules. Read on or download our handy guide now to find out if you need a release.

What's a release?

Model and property releases are signed documents which ensure that the people or property (works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings) featured in an image or clip are safe to use. To use an image you just need to know a release has been signed, you don’t need an actual copy of the release.

You can see some examples of the model and property releases we provide here.

If you’re a photographer looking for information you can find out all you need to know over on our contributor pages.

Why do I need a release?

If you fail to secure releases before using the image, you might get into difficulty with an owner/agent or estate and you or your company will be liable for any claims. This is part of the agreement you make when you buy images from Alamy (you can find out more about the legal stuff in our T&Cs).

It’s your responsibility to make sure you have all the right releases to use the image for your project. We think you should always get legal advice when intellectual property is included in your work.

Friendly disclaimer - we’re not lawyers, laws vary from country to country and legal requirements may change over time. We’ve done our best to clarify a complex issue as simply and as accurately as we can.

Do you need a release for everything?

No. There are plenty of occasions when a release isn’t needed. It depends what’s featured in the image and how you intend to use it.

How do I know if I need a release?

  1. Check if your use is commercial or editorial . You don’t normally need a release for editorial use but there are some exceptions which we explain later. If your use is commercial and your image features people or property then you will probably need a release.
  2. If the buildings or people are not recognisable you don’t need a release.

An image or clip can be used in a large variety of ways and since laws vary country by country, it’s your responsibility to determine whether or not a release is needed. You need to make sure that the release is suitable for your requirements and get any additional permissions from 3rd parties if needed.

Alamy does not generally have releases available for trademarks, brands, logos, copyright works - such as works of art and other similar intellectual property. We recommend you seek specialist legal advice for use of any images or clips featuring any of these intellectual properties.

How do I know if the image has a release?

Not all of Alamy's images are model or property released. You can check for releases on the image page and use the filters to help you search for imagery with the right releases.

There isn’t a release but I still want to use the image

If you think you need a release for your intended use, but there isn’t one…:

  • You can contact the owner, agent or estate directly to see if you can secure permission.
  • Get in touch with our customer service team. We have experience in what’s possible to clear and we might be able to give you some advice. If it’s appropriate we can also contact the photographer for more information.

When a standard release might not be enough – times when you need to be extra careful

Images or clips featuring works of art which are still in copyright might require additional 3rd party permissions for editorial or commercial use, so you should get specialist legal advice or speak to us if you're not sure. We would generally recommend a cautious approach.

Releases generally don't allow uses that could be deemed to be controversial, sensitive or defamatory. You should avoid the following uses and get legal advice:

  • Defamation of character or business – embellishment, distortion or fictionalization of a person's character or corporation's image.
  • Sensationalized use – a use intended to distort the ‘truth’ of an image or video clip.
  • Sensitive use – a 3rd party may have signed a release but may not consent to their likeness or property being used for a sensitive issue subject.

What if the model or property owner is deceased?

A signed release might still be required from the heirs or estates up to 70 years after death.

Extra release advice for publishers

Inside use - Generally, you can use imagery inside an educational product without additional permission from 3rd party property owners or the models featured.

The exception is images of works of art! If the work of art is still in copyright (if the artist is still alive or within 70 years of their death) you might need 3rd party permissions. You don’t need one if:

  • You’re reviewing the art or artist.
  • You’re creating a new piece of art using elements of the imagery.

Sometimes the lines are a bit blurred and we would always recommend you check. Either approach the 3rd party copyright owner or check with your legal team.

Cover use - You need to make sure images with people, property and in-copyright artwork have all relevant releases. We always recommend that you secure permission from brands before using their trademark or logo. Front cover use rules are not straight forward. Some images featuring people or buildings are occasionally okay – for example wide-angle crowd scenes and cityscapes.

Quick definitions

If you’re new to image buying there might be some industry terms on this page you’re not familiar with yet…:

  • Clearance - is the official authorization for something to proceed. In the stock world this means you have cleared the image for use with the stock image agency or photographer and checked you have the right license and releases.
  • Permissions - this term is often used to describe written permission to use copyrighted material. When we say ‘Do you have the right permissions?’ we mean releases and licenses.
  • Intellectual property - Intellectual property (IP) is a legal term that refers to “creations of the mind.” Examples of intellectual property include logos, brands, music, literature and other artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs.

Useful blogs

  • If you’re a model who has signed a release you can find out what rights you have in our blog post.
  • If you’ve spotted yourself or your property in a stock photo and don’t think you have given permission, head over to our blog now to find out the next best steps.

For general information about our collection and buying stock imagery, including pricing, size and resolutions, go to our buy images and video page.