Release Forms: Protecting the Homeless

Releases for homeless photography

Source: Abiiba Howell/Dominion Films

When I think about releases in the entertainment industry, my thoughts are about agreements between two sides. Each side makes concessions for their own benefit.  Ofttimes those benefits are less than obvious.

According to author Fran Harris, “Hollywood is full of procedures, paper trails and protocol. You will be asked to sign releases, non-disclosure agreements, contracts and other legal documents more often than you think. Get used to it. It ain’t personal. If you’re the kind of person to get bent out of shape because someone asks you to sign a confidentiality agreement, don’t pursue Hollywood, you’ll be eaten up the first time out.” (Crashing Hollywood, 2002)

Right to consent

Source: Dominion Films 2011

Based on my own experience as a motion picture producer, the entertainment industry releases, when used as intended, cover most aspects of a project.    However, to initiate and execute them with limited liability, it is important to be aware of the terms and requisite elements.

Each release should satisfy the following: a) an offer – this is usually a statement of each side’s willingness to enter into the agreement; an acceptance – this is where both parties consent to the terms of the release (the homeless person would sign the release); legal purpose or objective – the objective of the release or agreement must be for a legal purpose; mutuality – both parties must be in agreement on the final terms, with no counteroffers or changes of what is being agreed to; consideration – this states what will benefit or be a liability to the signer (homeless person); competent parties – this indicates that both parties are of legal age and are competent to enter into a binding agreement.

In the case of minors being captured on camera, as in the video below, the parents or legal guardians must sign a minor release.

Source:  Abiiba Howell/Dominion Films, 2011

Unfortunately, some people see the homeless as nameless, faceless people. When asked about her thoughts on the homeless having their pictures taken and placed on the internet without their consent, or knowledge, Dalila Mebane says, “I don’t see that they have the same rights as the general public, and it’s unfortunate.”

According to the protections of rights inherent in the Texas Intrusion law, however, the homeless are entitled to the same rights to their likeness as anyone else. (Citizen Media Law Project.

Photographing and posting images online of homeless people without their express permission, preferably in writing via a release, can constitute an invasion of privacy via an intrusion on seclusion claim.  To be liable under such a claim, the public or reporter must have:

“Invaded the private affairs of the plaintiff;”  “the invasion must be offensive to a reasonable person;” “the matter that the defendant intruded upon must involve a private matter:” and “the intrusion must have caused mental anguish or suffering to the plaintiff.” (

According to The Palm Beach News online edition, a Florida pastor has filed a lawsuit against The National Enquirer newspaper for publishing a story implicating him in the death of a missing girl. The pastor has filed a defamation lawsuit because the publication stated that he was “under police investigation” for killing the child “as part of a human sacrifice.” (October 11, 2011).

This further demonstrates the necessity for accuracy of information, as well as the obtaining of releases in every situation where someone is being captured on camera, quoted or recorded in conversations.

About Abiiba Howell

Media bytes by Abiiba Howell
Specializing in the creation, branding, production, distribution and promotion of entertainment properties utilizing new and social media platforms.

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