Did you just sign away rights to your likeness for life?

If you’ve ever watched the show Black Mirror, “Joan is Awful,” then you might be surprised to hear that this actually happened in real life and with Netflix. No, I’m not talking about a Netflix show; I mean actual real subscribers to the Netflix service with their terrifying terms and conditions.

Be honest, how many times do you actually read every single line of every document that you sign off on?

South Park did an episode about this called HUMANCENTiPAD, mocking just what people agree to without actually reading it and fully understanding it.

So back to Netflix, they ran a promo, and upon uploading a photo, there are two boxes to tick, one reading,” I consent to Netflix’s use of my image for its marketing campaign,” while the other looks scarily similar to the same terms and conditions Joan faced in the episode.

Take a look at the “Name and Likeness” section on the nine-page terms and conditions below:

By interacting with this Experience, you grant the Netflix entity that provides you with this Experience, its affiliates and respective successors and assigns and anyone authorized by any of them (collectively, “Netflix”), the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive right to record, depict, and/or portray you and use, and grant to others the right, but not the obligation, to record, depict, and/or portray you and use, your actual or simulated likeness, name, photograph, voice, actions, etc. in connection with the development, production, distribution, exploitation, advertising, promotion and publicity of this Experience, in all media, now known and later devised, and all languages, formats, versions, and forms related to such Experience without compensation to you or any other individual, unless prohibited by law. Netflix

This is actually an issue in porn as well. For years I’ve been trying to warn porn stars to take a copy of the model release they sign only so they would have it in case they needed to prove they didn’t agree to something they’ve signed, but last year when ChatGTP and Stable Diffusion, blew up I got a real in your face lesson just how many rights porn stars are signing away.

I get that porn isn’t a business model that works with residuals. I’m not going to argue that. But that doesn’t mean that a performer has to give away their life time likeness rights for use with any currently existing technology or technology that may exist one day in the future.

And that is actually in many of these model releases that porn stars have been signing for decades.

It all started with a deal with VCA, Cinderella Pictures (two older, now defunct production companies), and Hustler signed some rights deals prior to the release of mobile technology. The wording was a little iffy, and that allowed some shady people to sweep in and start offering rights that those companies were like, hey, we never agreed to that.  Hustler sued, and from what I understand, they finally won but not before spending a crap ton of money to fight that legal battle.

So, to prevent things like this from happening in the future, wording began to appear on contracts and model releases that gave production companies lifetime rights to things not only for existing technology like internet and mobile but also any future technology that may not exist at this time. And in this case, we’re talking about AI.

A performer does a scene and signs the 225 documents and that model release. Did she read it? Probably not. But even if she did, what could she do? She wants her check, and she wants to get out there.

So she does her thing and goes home like the hundreds of others have done before her just that month alone.

Now, people like me and others can license that content and have the right to use it on their websites. Sounds harmless enough, right? Well, it can be. But it also means companies can now license that content and the people who star in it for use with new technologies like AI.

Now, people can make AI clones of them, and they have a very single legal right to do it because the performer agreed to it in writing.

This document is valid even after the performer quits porn, gets married, and has 7 kids. This document is valid even after the performer dies.

The problem isn’t with the companies who are exploiting these rights. They are only doing what they are legally allowed to do.

The problem is that performers are signing these documents without reading or understanding them.

Take a few extra minutes and really skim through the model release and look for things like “in perpetuity.” If you don’t understand what it’s saying, ASK. If you don’t want to agree to that specific term, strike it out with your ink pen and initial right next to it, letting them know you don’t agree to that part of the agreement.

I’m not a lawyer, and as such, I can’t give you legal advice, but I can say if you ever have a question about a legal document that you don’t understand, stop what you are doing and hit up the APAG Union. They will probably be able to help you in a way that others won’t. You can find them on Twitter (X) @apagunion.

But please, whatever you do, don’t just sign something you haven’t fully read and understood.

I have a stack of model releases that allow me to do whatever I want with content that was made 5, 10, 20+ years ago. I’ve got full rights to it for life. I shouldn’t have that much control over someone’s likeness.

Nor should someone else (that isn’t the person themselves). So please, please please read what you are about to sign, and if you don’t want to give someone the rights to something, then say no. You aren’t saying no to signing the whole model release, just that one part of it.



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