For those couples who are creating amateur porn together, having 2257 documents that are specific for your needs, as well as valid model releases and mutual content licenses is vital. Without them, you could face fines and prison - or an end to your business should your relationship ever end.
At the recent Internext Expo, I was asked quite a few questions about how couples producing amateur porn can legally protect themselves and their content. While the easy (and by far the best) answer is “You really need to speak to an attorney about that…” I thought that I might share a few opinions and examples with you, with the upfront disclaimer that this is NOT intended to be “legal advice” - but merely a look at some of the steps that Stephen and I have taken in this regard.
In this industry, with all of the legal issues we face, perhaps the most important is accurate proof of age. Federal regulations require that you maintain ‘proof of age’ documents (typically done as part of a model release) for all models, actors, and actresses engaged in actual or simulated sexual acts. The PROTECT Act has recently redefined the requirements, but that’s the bottom line. This is the “2257” requirement that you here so much about, and is properly known as “Title 18, United States Code, Section 2257.”
You are required to have these documents, available for inspection during normal business hours, and the physical address of these documents must be prominently displayed on your website in order to comply with this law. Although many amateurs work out of their homes, and fear posting their address where nut cases - as well as the authorities - can see it, you are still required to do so. Failure to comply could lead to large fines and stiff prison sentences. So comply with the law, but make sure that you also have some ‘protection’ handy (and know how to use it!) in case a psycho comes calling instead.
While the ‘2257 docs are the most important for you to have, there is another area that you really need to look into, and that is the actual model release. Model releases are typically drafted in language that confers all rights to the producer / photographer ‘in exchange for valuable consideration.’ The upshot of this is that as a model, you have been “paid” for your services, and you can go away now, thank you, without any kind of rights to use the photos and / or videos that you’ve just appeared in.
While this is all fine and dandy when you are simply ‘content’ modeling for a professional photographer who intends to sell ‘his’ work in exchange for a pay check, many ‘real’ amateurs and web cam girls work with their lover or husband as the photographer, jointly producing content for ‘their’ site - share and share alike. Frequently, this means no model release, but rather an informal ‘hey honey, let’s shoot some more content’ arrangement, where ‘the model’ isn’t directly paid by ‘the photographer.’
This is an easy and hassle-free situation for happy couples jointly working together to build and hopefully profit from an amateur adult web site. But what happens when the couple is no longer ‘happy’ - and either split up, or one party or another decides that “they don’t wanna play any more?” The photographer ends up with a pile of unusable images (if he doesn’t have a valid model release to use them), and the model ends up with nothing - since although the photographer is unable to use the images commercially without a release, as the creator, he still holds copyright, and without a license to use them, the model is left empty handed.
While an ‘after the fact’ arrangement can often be reached, the prospect that the relationship’s break up was painful enough that the model won’t allow her pictures to be sold or spread all over the Internet, or that the photographer will not allow his ‘ex’ to continue running her site, profiting off of his hard work, is a very real one, as was pointed out by one of XBiz’ members, Erika, a few months ago.
It was after reading her post that I realized that the CDs full of photo and video content that I had been using on my old site were shot by my ex-husband / partner, and that he did not have a release to use them, nor did I have a license to continue using them. In that regard, I was in the same situation as Erika, but I had fortunately found Stephen, and not only was he my new husband and partner, but a better photographer as well, so coming up with fresh content was easy. Still, without taking some sort of steps to prevent the same thing from happening, we would both be potentially vulnerable, and not be able to realize the full rewards of our mutual, hard earned efforts.
Our solution? While no one would mistake us as ‘underage’ (Stephen is 40 and I’m almost there…) we still needed to comply with ‘2257, and while we were at it, we decided to draft a mutual release and license as part of our documentation. Since Stephen appears in much of the actual ‘sexual’ content, he was also a ‘model’ and required to provide proof of age. So the release form included all of our required information, as well as a mutual license granting full usage / resale rights to both of us (although he retains copyright). To be fair, we included a clause requiring the splitting of profits from any commercial usage of our images, and back-dated it to the beginning of our relationship so as to cover all of our mutual content, from ‘day one’ forward.
We then made several copies of our documents, signed and dated along with an attached copy of our drivers licenses, so that we would each have one, as well as be able to have copies at our two residences, available for inspection if necessary. Like pre-nuptial agreements, wanting to have them can cause problems for couple’s who can’t imagine any other situation but the one they are in, but once you have the wisdom and experience that age (and many relationships) can give you, it becomes really important to do all you can to make sure that all you’ve invested into this business is protected both legally and personally.
Having mutually beneficial paperwork between you can ease the worries and enhance the stability of couples who produce homemade porn together. Remember that it’s always good to check with an attorney in your area as there may be more requirements than those discussed above in your jurisdiction, and getting the wording right is crucial. I hope this helps! ~ Ayrora