Filming people is a lot of fun. Whether it’s your career or just a hobby for posting on social media, you have certain rights and responsibilities. One of these is collecting video consent forms, but when do you need them? What should they say? Do you always have to get one from every person, and can anyone sign? Knowing about and using video consent forms is crucial if you plan to film anything. Using a professionally created template is the best and easiest way to get a reusable, customizable document that has everything you need already included. We will walk you through everything you need to know to get started and create a fantastic document you can use anytime you want to record people on video.
What Is a Video Consent Form?
A video consent form is a legal document people sign before being filmed. This applies to private settings, many documentaries, and for-profit productions. Keeping a professional video consent form on hand can help videographers and other camera users from accidentally breaking the law and helps protect against false litigation of someone who agreed later claims they didn’t want to be a part of your filming.
Why is a Video Consent Form Important?
A video consent form is important because people have the right to privacy in many situations. When you ask first and get the answer in writing, you can easily prove that you had permission to film, even in a private setting. Not only does this protect your rights as a videographer, but it also fosters trust, displays professionalism, and helps the people you are filming understand their rights so they can decide based on informed consent.
For the consent to be informed, the subject(s) must know they are being filmed and understand why and what the plausible outcome of being part of your production could be. For example, there’s not much risk in being a background character in s pleasant scene in a non-political, non-religious scene. However, some types of film can cast people in a particular light as villains, supporters of causes, believers in various faiths, and other roles they have a right to understand before they agree to participate. Consent must always be wholly voluntary and can never be coerced or a result of misinformation.
Are There Times You Do Not Need a Video Consent Form
You may not need a signed consent form if you are filming in a public space. Since people who are out in public, by definition, are not in a private situation, recording is allowed. However, you should check the local standards and laws with an attorney in your area if you plan to use the footage for commercial purposes, as this may affect your rights. Different states and cities have various laws, and you may need paid permits to film for specific reasons or in some places.
Whenever it is practical to do so, it’s a good idea to have people you are filming sign a waiver, even in public. Additionally, you may need to pay them or have them waive the right to compensation when you are shooting for a commercial reason.
Essential Elements of a Video Consent Form
The essential elements of a video consent release form are simple and fairly universal. We’ve created a list below to help you understand each section of the document and what it should contain, so you have the full cooperation and voluntary consent of the people you want to film.
- (Optional but Strongly Recommended) Logo or Business Name- You can skip this step if you are a private individual or hobby videographer. However, for professionals, semi-professionals, film students, or those who might profit from their work, we strongly recommend using a business name or logo at the top of your forms.
- Title- At the top of your document, in large print and bold letters, put a version of the title, “Video Consent Form or Video Consent and Release” This makes it clear to the reader what the document is about and its intended purpose.
- Primary Consent Statement- This should say that the person (have them print their name) agrees to allow you/your business to use their image and likeness for your intended purpose, such as advertising or publications. It should also state clearly that they either receive a specific compensation or do not expect to get paid or compensated for this participation.
- Secondary Consent Statements- These should give further details about what you need from them. For example, promotional or educational content, excerpts, permission to record their voice, and use their name to identify them. These statements should be no more than 1-5 sentences, and you should leave space for them to initial beside each.
- Final or Perpetual Consent Statement- This last line says that the person signing gives you permission to keep and use this video forever without consulting them in the future.
- Name- The person appearing in the film should print their name here.
- Contact Information- This is self-explanatory. Have the subject include their address, phone number, and other pertinent contact details.
- Date- Always include the date the person agreed to be filmed.
- Signature and Parental Signature Lines- If the subject is a competent legal adult, they should sign. However, if you ever film minors, a second line and a note that the parents or guardians consent on their behalf should be included here. You can still have the minor sign, but without the adult signature, it’s not binding.
- Translator or Reader Signature and Date Lines- If the parent or subject needs a translator or someone to read to them because of learning difficulties or lack of literacy, the responsible party who translates or reads to them should also sign and date the form.
Pro Tips on Video Consent Forms
There are several essential things to know about video consent forms. Since the laws in different cities, states and countries vary significantly; you should always stay current on the standards in the area(s) you are filming. When in doubt, ask an attorney. Here are a few more pro tips to help you with your videos.
- Minor Release Forms- Minors, people under the age of 18 in the USA, cannot sign their own video consent forms unless a court formally emancipates them. You will need the parents or guardians to sign the document instead. Moreover, you may need consent from all the parents or guardians, especially when the minor in question has divorced or separated parents.
- Copyright Release Forms are Not the Same Thing as Video Consent Forms- A copyright release form is specifically when a videographer, the original person who did the filming or who owns the video, gives third-party permission to use the footage they own the rights to.
- Property Release Forms- If you plan to film on or about private property, you may need a separate release form from the owner. This includes land, works of art, pets and animals, and anything else that is not a person.
Filming people and informed consent is a tricky intersection. To help you out, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions by people seeking more information about this topic. Below you’ll learn more about refusing video consent, videos on social media, and more.
You can refuse to be recorded in some cases. Within your own home, you have the right to. “a reasonable expectation of privacy,” meaning that you can refuse to be recorded except in states with one-party consent. A one-party consent means only one person has to know about a camera or consent to its use, even in your home. Moreover, some states allow people to record anytime they reasonably expect to capture criminal activity. Meanwhile, if you are in public, you do not have the right to privacy, and anyone with a recording device may use it unless otherwise specified by law.
A company may be able to use your video without your permission in some cases. For example, if you have put a video out on a video-sharing site or app with a usage clause allowing that site to use your content for commercial purposes, then you have given your permission simply by using that site. Your only option is to stop using the site or app completely, so your future content won’t fall under that contract. Unfortunately, this does not remove permissions you have already granted by using the platform. Another example of when a company can use a video of you (rather than one you made) is when you’ve been apprised that there are cameras on site. In court, they could use a video that was subpoenaed or one turned in by someone else who recorded you doing something illegal. Likewise, they could use a video of you taken in public.
The only way to stop someone from recording you in public is to leave the area and go somewhere on private property where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means you’d need to go indoors rather than standing on the front lawn or anywhere else people can easily film you from the street. If someone is recording you in public and you do not like it, you can ask them to stop, but they don’t have to. Unless you have a specific restraining order that prevents the individual holding the camera from harassing you, then when you are in public, you cannot stop someone from videoing you.
You can sue if someone has stolen a video you made and posted it on social media as though it was theirs without your permission. Similarly, you could sue if the video is of you and violates either privacy or defamation laws. Please note comedy is generally not considered defamation of character, nor is parody or news reporting. Suppose you lost your temper and acted out in public at a business, and someone filmed this activity even though you told them you didn’t want them to film it. In this case, they can still post the video despite your personal desire not to have that recorded behavior outed to the public. Their video doesn’t violate any laws, and it’s not defamation of character to show someone exactly as they are.
Any time you are planning to film someone, the first question you should ask is whether you need to have them sign a waiver first. Typically a video consent form is a necessary document when you are filming in private or for profit. We strongly recommend using a preformatted, professionally created template that you can download and customize. Doing this helps ensure that all the relevant data is included in your form. Since consent forms are legal documents, having copies from every person you film is a part of good business practices and can protect you from litigation.