“Music Rights Clearance” – we free up rights for music, as our name says, but we also have occasion to help producers out when clearing picture rights is involved. Especially when artists appear in those images…

If you’re relatively new to the image rights matter, here’s a little post to guide you (we hope). First of all, you have to know that prior to any public or even private dissemination of a photograph or an image, the distributor or producer must obtain authorization from the photographer and/or from the person concerned by that image. At the risk of what, exactly? Generally speaking, the capture or use of someone’s image without that person’s consent may constitute a breach of privacy if he or she is recognizable in the photograph or the video.

Before being able to use the image in question, it’s a good idea to make sure that the person(s) authorize(s) the dissemination of that photo. Of course, if the objective of the image is strictly “editorial” (serving to inform the public) and has no commercial purpose, and on condition, obviously, that the person in the photo is not degraded, use does possibly not require authorization. But be sure to remember what is meant by “editorial.” Will the photo be used in:

  • a news story, archives, or a documentary, academic or scientific publication?

If such is the case, you may be exempt from the need to request authorization, but be certain that the image serves the public interest (something that is not always black and white). If you wish to use the image of a public personality taken in the framework of his or her professional or public activity, that picture could normally be used for editorial purposes. For instance, a government minister could not object to the press publishing a photograph of him leaving Parliament, but if it were a question of a family dinner at a restaurant, that’s another story. The right to the image derives from the right to privacy, a principle that is not to be forgotten. The right to the image is a fundamental right. That said, it is impossible to have absolute control over photos and videos that are posted on the Internet (as we all know), all the more so in the case of an image taken in a public context or at a public event… On the other hand, no one is immune from a lawsuit!

So in a commercial context?

Here there’s no uncertainty: you’re definitely required to obtain authorizations! It’ll be necessary to get in touch with the photographer or with the assignees of the image and/or the person that figures in the image, so that a license for use can be issued. Don’t take anything for granted, and when in doubt, ask the question and request advice from experts (like us, especially for artists, since we know them so well!). And when we talk about an image, bear in mind that this could be a question of a logo, an album cover or a work of art.

Extract of the Familiprix commercial – with Corey Hart’s poster

For example, we at one time cleared the display rights for celebrities used in a Familiprix advertisement (it involved a display of Julie Masse and Corey Hart, who appeared in the locker of the ad’s protagonist). We also secured authorization from the band Rush so that the production of the film Menteur could use a jersey with their name on it in a scene. Oh, yes: however trivial that may seem, the image of the band used this way finds itself associated with a production, and they could refuse such an association (which was not the case here: they were happy to agree).