Property release overview
You may be required a property release when you buy images or videos containing recognizable places, buildings, or other property—such as pets, automobiles, or artwork. This legal form must be signed by the owner of the property or a corporate representative if the property is owned by a company. A property release provides written permission from the property owner identifying the subject and consenting to its use for commercial purposes. Without a release, your photographs can’t be used for commercial purposes.
- Famous landmarks, historic locations, and modern architecture
- Copyrighted works like art, books, maps, fictional characters
- Identifiable exterior or interior of private homes and buildings
- Distinctive product shapes like toys, bottles, luxury furniture, vehicles, airplanes
- Unique animals, such as race horses, famous pets, certain zoo animals
- Properties with photography policies, which may include stadiums, museums, concert venues, amusement parks
Private homes and buildings
If you’re photographing, filming, or even illustrating a recognizable property you probably need a property release. There may be an exception if the property appears in a minor way and isn’t the main subject of the image or video, such as urban skylines with several buildings.
Some examples include:
- A ticketed location like an amusement park, museum, palace, or estate,
- Distinctive homes or parts of homes (including interiors) that are easily recognized, either by their design or by their owner, like Gaudi’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona.
- Private property that is recognizable as a landmark or business and is central to the photograph/film/illustration, like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.
Not all property photos require releases. If your content feature generic houses and interiors that don’t have any identifiable features, you’re in the clear
The same applies to generic street scenes or cityscapes.
Broad cityscapes, that don’t have a single point of focus don’t require property releases. But if you single out a building as the main subject of the photograph, you need a release.
Landmarks and monuments
You may need property releases for images or videos of famous buildings and landmarks. In general, images/videos of historical monuments that are more than 120-years-old don’t require releases.
However, if the structure has been modified in any way, you must obtain a property release from the new architect. For example, the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889, but the light installation was added in 1985. A photograph of the tower in daylight doesn’t require a release. However, a nighttime photo featuring the light installation needs a release, because French copyright law recognizes its artistic merit.
Public transit and unique places
You need explicit permission from public transit systems to photograph or film on location. Also, like other products and services, most metro lines have trademarks and copyright protections on signage, maps, logos, route indicators, buildings, and more.
All trademarks and copyright-protected items must be removed from the photos, videos, or illustrations before you submit them.
Here are some examples of photos where you don’t need to include a property release:
A generic subway station with signs scrubbed doesn't need a release
Generic storefronts and signs that have been “scrubbed” (that is, recognizable names have been removed) are fine to submit without a release.
A generic sign that has been scrubbed of identifying features does not need a release
As a rule of thumb, any identifiable business or private property requires a property release.
If your photo includes a logo or trademark you must scrub (remove) that object.
Generally, a release may not be required if objects are not identifiable and just part of the general scene.
Products and identifiable packaging cannot be the main subject of a photograph and some cannot appear in our content at all.
For works of art and artifacts including those you’d find in a museum, you need permission from the artist or the estate where the works are held. If you take photos or videos in a museum or gallery, you must refer to that entity’s rules about photography restrictions.
Modern artwork, including murals and sculptures located in public spaces, must be accompanied by a property release. If you are the artist, submitting an image of your own artwork, a property release is required.
If the art is not recognizable, no property release is required.
Graffiti / street art
Graffiti and street art may be subject to copyright, so you need a release from the artist and/or building owner. If, however, the graffiti or street art is not used as a backdrop or main subject / foreground of the photo, then no release is required.
No property release required (but a model release is necessary)
Tattoos are considered works of art, so you must consider the prominence of a tattoo’s display and the content of the tattoo itself. You don’t need a release if the tattoo isn’t the main focus of the photo. However, a property release is required in these cases:
- The tattoo is close up and the primary focus.
- The tattoo depicts celebrities.
- The tattoo’s subject is trademarked or copyrighted (for example, a logo or character).
A person is identifiable by their tattoos, so any photo of a person with tattoos requires a model release of that person even if their face is not part of the image.
If the tattoo artist is part of the image or may be identifiable in context of their tattoo art, a model release may also be required for them.
Property release and model releases of both the artist and the customer are required.
Protected product designs
Product designs are protected by various intellectual property laws. They include trademarks like logos and symbols as well as design elements like shapes, colors, and other identifiable characteristics.
You may submit content of some products where all recognizable elements are removed (for example, if you remove all logos on shirts and shoes). However, below are a few examples of products that require a property release, even without logos, because they’re universally recognizable. Be advised that we can’t accept content that depicts objects like these, even without visible logos:
- Rubik’s Cube
- Red Cross
- Christian Louboutin red-bottomed shoes
- Hershey’s Kisses
- Apple devices
- Lego and Duplo building sets and figures
- Crayola products
- Louis Vuitton
- Academy Award or “Oscar” statuette
- UPS uniform (because even without logos, it’s still recognizable by its brown colour)
Every country has its own stipulations when depicting currency.
Adobe rejects any images containing reproductions of currency where more than 75% of banknotes are visible in the image.
Accepted image of US banknotes
Usually, animals and pets don’t need property releases, but there are a few extenuating circumstances for famous pets. For example, you’d need a property release for Grumpy Cat, Tyson the skateboarding bulldog, or Boo the Pomeranian. You also need property releases for zoo animals.