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My company has sent out several notices requesting that we sign a "purely voluntary" photo release form. I'm on board with the general idea -- they want to take pictures of events, conferences, classes, etc, and want to use them in flyers and on the company website. However, the wording of the form is problematic. For example, I would be allowing them to take photos of me "forever", and to alter they photos in any way they wish. There are also some contradictions in the form (for example, it says that the photos will be used to promote our products and services, but also will not be used for commercial purposes).

What is a good way to say that I won't sign the form as it stands? I don't want to accuse anyone of having bad intentions, because I'm sure they don't. But I've had bad experiences in the past signing poorly worded forms and don't want to go down that rabbit hole again.

Where do I bring this up? My thought is an informal email to the marketing person who is sending the release. But is this better with HR? My manager?

  • What are you getting in return for them to use your likeness in any way they want? – NotMe Jun 12 '14 at 21:27
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    Update: I decided that the best way to have someone do what you want is to make it easy for them. I took the release form, struck out the parts I wasn't comfortable with, added a few things (like resolving the contradictions). I emailed this to marketing with a friendly note asking them to review my changes and let me know if that would work. I just met with them, and they like most of my version better. All is good. – Kathy Jun 17 '14 at 22:01
  • @Kathy: Thanks for the update. Consider re-posting that as an answer - comments are meant to be temporary (and may be cleaned up), while answering your own question is encouraged if you found the (a) solution yourself ( blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/07/… ). – sleske Apr 15 '15 at 23:09
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Communication is key. Talk to the person who sent you the email, and air your concerns. They might be reasonable, or you may need to pass your concerns to HR. If you really can't amend the form as you like, it's "purely voluntary", no? Don't sign it.

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What is a good way to say that I won't sign the form as it stands?

You simply make it known that you don't want to sign the form as it stands. If asked, you provide the reasons for your concern.

Where do I bring this up? My thought is an informal email to the marketing person who is sending the release. But is this better with HR? My manager?

This has nothing to do with HR, nor with your manager. A simple response to the marketing person is the most appropriate avenue. He/She may want to follow up to learn about your concerns and alter the release form, or (more likely) won't bother.

Unless you are part of the Senior Leadership for this company, you are most likely making too big a deal of this. It almost certainly doesn't matter to your company if you choose to be excluded from these photos.

Since it's voluntary, just decline, provide your feedback if marketing appears interested, and don't worry about it either way.

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If it were me, I would set up a meeting (or send an e-mail if a meeting is difficult) with the person who is asking for folks to volunteer. I would want to cover three things:

  1. 'Some people' are reluctant to volunteer
  2. They have concerns with the broad language in the form
  3. A few changes to the language will make more people willing to participate

In true Dale Carnegie Fashion, you are speaking to the other person's interests, showing sympathy for their goal, and being helpful in trying to suggest a way to fix it.

'Some People'

Yes, you are the one who doesn't want to sign. But there are (presumably) others too. Don't make this personal, but rather be sure to present it in the interests of the person asking for volunteers:

"I really think it's a great idea having photos of us doing what we do as promotional materials, and want to see it happen. Unfortunately, some people seem to be reluctant to sign up right now."

Problematic Language

Pick up two or three main points that you think are particularly problematic. For instance, if the right to use them lasts forever you can say:

"For instance, here it says we give the right for you guys to use our photo on promotional materials forever. The concern I heard is that our photo could be used even if we end up in another company in the future."

Try to keep the examples short, relevant, and practical. If you have to stretch for an explanation, don't include it.

Here's how to fix it

After you've explained what the main objections are, provide a commented version (even by hand is fine) with the suggestions you would make to have it be a better agreement, or with the troublesome parts highlighted. Just say something like:

"I'm no lawyer, but I jotted down some quick comments on the agreement based on the concerns I've heard of. You don't have to implement them all, but it may improve your chances if you had legal take a look over them and make it easier to sign. Thanks for your time!"

At the end of the day if they don't want to do that (because they don't want to keep track of who is still employed and whose photo they can/can't use, or because they don't want to have a costly reprinting job whenever anyone changes jobs, etc.), just don't sign it. It is voluntary after all. But if the person who is listening cares, you'll have a much better chance of it getting implement if they're the one championing it, since they're ultimately responsible for the results.

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