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The $2B Reason You Need a Release for Those Marketing Photos

The $2B Reason You Need a Release for Those Marketing Photos

Thursday, May 25, 2017/Categories: Lawsuits

Marketing consultants are often tasked with choosing photos for client websites, advertisements, and social media accounts. Finding the perfect shot is a key component of successful messaging. However, signed model releases may be just as important. Without them, you could find your business facing a costly lawsuit just like national restaurant chain Chipotle.

According to a report in The Washington Post, a photographer took photos inside a Colorado Chipotle restaurant for the company's marketing materials. One of the people photographed, Leah Caldwell, claims she refused to sign a release. Years later, Caldwell spotted her picture hanging in a Chipotle in Orlando. Now she's suing the company for $2.2 billion. Why so much? Because that's how much Chipotle earned over the nine years it used the unauthorized image.

Let's find out why using photos without a signed release may lead to legal action and how marketing consultant insurance can help protect your business.

How One Photo Can Land You in Court

Using a person's name or likeness for commercial purposes without their consent is called misappropriation. It's a form of advertising injury, and people sue over it. Chances are your client will be the first target of a misappropriation lawsuit. If that happens, they may very well turn around and sue you.

That's why it's important for you to only use photos in marketing materials when you have written permission. For more on that topic, read "Sue the Consultants" Mindset Still a Professional Liability Risk."

Pro tip: Check releases even if your client supplied the photos. They may not understand the law, or they might think they can use a photo if they took it.

How Marketing Consultant Insurance Protects Your Business

For many industries, General Liability Insurance can address lawsuits over advertising injuries like misappropriation. But you're a marketing expert, so different insurance rules may apply here.

If you're responsible for misappropriation in marketing materials you created for your client, that's a professional mistake. This means you probably need Professional Liability Insurance to address your legal expenses. It can help cover costs when a client claims you…

  • Failed to deliver promised services.
  • Did not live up to professional standards.
  • Made errors in your professional counsel.

Clients typically have high expectations when they hire professional marketing consultants, but none of them involve going to court. If they think your mistake put them there, they may look for compensation.

Get more tips for preventing client lawsuits in "4 Types of Professional Liability Lawsuits (and How to Avoid Them)."

How to Avoid Misappropriation Lawsuits

To avoid misappropriation claims, obtain legal permission to use an image. Make sure every person who appears in your client's marketing materials has signed a release. This includes photo and video footage. The Digital Photography School has a helpful article detailing the ins and outs of model releases, including sample releases you can download.

Another option is purchasing stock photography. It may take some searching to find the right shots, but at least you're licensed to use the images. Shutterstock is a popular site for stock photography, and in most cases, you are allowed to legally use its images for advertising.

To learn more about how your marketing consultant insurance has your back, be sure to read our article "5 Unexpected Times Your Consultant Insurance Comes in Handy."


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