Reposted from Law à la Mode, Edition 6 – Summer 2012

By Alexander S. Birkhold (New York)

The recent formation of the Model Alliance, an organization seeking to enforce and expand existing legal protections for models in the United States, has prompted increased US scrutiny of employment and image rights issues in the fashion industry.

Although labor laws vary among US states, the Department of Labor, through the Fair Labor Standards Act, has set minimum wage requirements, established 14 as the minimum employment age and limited the hours of child employees under 16. New York has already augmented these federal requirements, further regulating the working hours of minor models.

On top of New York’s laws, organizations such as the Model Alliance and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have articulated aspirational guidelines for working with models, including:

■ Do not hire models under the age of 16 to walk in runway shows

■ Do not allow models under the age of 18 to work past midnight on fittings or shoots

■ Models may refuse non-paying jobs and jobs that pay only in “trade”

■ No model under the age of 17 shall be asked to pose nude or semi-nude

■ All jobs and castings involving full or partial nudity must be subject to informed, prior consent

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In addition to following the legislative and recommended regulations, brand owners working with models (whether in the US or elsewhere) should also prepare model releases before work begins in order to avoid subsequent conflict with their client. Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, photograph or likeness without the person’s consent may be liable for damages sustained by the injured person. A model release, however, provides the authority to use an individual’s name, voice, visual likeness, photographs or other stipulated terms. When drafting a model release, at least three factors should be considered:

■ Purpose. Will the image be used in advertising, an editorial or for art?

■ Duration of use

■ Nature of use. What is the medium in which the images will be published? Not all models will agree to allow their image used in certain media, so it is especially important to negotiate this term before use

To avoid disagreement later, make sure to discuss these factors up front, before your model walks on set or down the runway.