Processing Release Forms by Email

In talking with various officers from other kingdoms and within the Society’s leadership, it turns out that an undocumented provision allows for officers to gather release forms by email.

I’ve summarized what I’ve learned to date in the writeup below, which I will circulate for feedback — hopefully we can get any lingering issues ironed out, and then have this published somewhere official so that local officers can use this technique to streamline their work.

Processing Release Forms by Email

A streamlined route to documenting consent for publication in the SCA

2021 July 25 • Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin • Rough Draft 

NOTE: This is a draft of a personal memorandum, not issued by any Kingdom or Society office. It represents my understanding of the issue based on conversations with those offices, but is not an authoritative statement of policy. I hope that in the future similar guidance will be issued formally, but until then, you should obtain confirmation from a supervising officer before acting on any of this.

The release forms and procedures that are used by the SCA to record permission to publish photographs and creative works have not changed since they were overhauled in 2010. 

In the intervening years, more and more of the Society’s operations have moved online, and the cycle of printing, signing, and returning paper forms has become a growing inconvenience that slows the process of updating websites, newsletters, and social media. 

Thankfully, new guidance from the Society’s leadership has opened the door to a more convenient mechanism for documenting individuals’ consent: receiving release forms via email.

Existing Procedures

There are three standard forms hosted on the website for use by the webministry, chroniclers, and social media officers: the model form, photographer form, and creative-work form. Individuals can execute these forms to grant permission to the SCA for the publication of their likeness, a photo they took, or another item they have created.

Signatures: Existing Guidance

Until now, the approved options for executing these forms have been:

  • Print the form, sign it in ink, then deliver it on paper.
  • Print the form, sign it in ink, then scan or photograph it and deliver it via email.
  • Complete the form and sign it digitally using Adobe Acrobat or an equivalent tool that supports “certificate-based electronic signatures​​,” then deliver it via email.

Format: Existing Guidance

A FAQ document from 2011 states that release forms “cannot be modified in any way.”

New Guidance

Over the last five years, several kingdoms have introduced online procedures for executing release forms, and have obtained approval from Society and Corporate leadership for this. However, until now no announcement has been made of those changes, and the Society handbooks for the Webministry and Chronicler have not been updated recently, so most local officers are unaware of the new guidelines.

Signatures: New Guidance

In addition to the signature options listed above, officers may now also accept an email sent directly from the individual containing a completed release form along with an unambiguous statement of acceptance such as “I agree to this form” as equivalent to a traditional signature.

This change means that someone can obtain an electronic copy of a release form, fill in the required information on their screen, and send it as an email attachment to the relevant officer along with a statement that they agree to the terms of the release, without printing the form out on paper or using a specialized electronic signature tool.

Format: New Guidance

In addition to the existing printable PDF forms, releases may also be exchanged in other formats so long as their content always includes the core legal language from the current standard documents; in particular, it’s okay if the layout or formatting are different, or if some peripheral elements are added.

This change means that release forms may be exchanged as plain-text email messages, rather than as PDF file attachments.

This change also means that it is possible to extend the Creative Works form to add options for other types of content which are not listed on the current form, such as recipes.

What Hasn’t Changed

When considering the above changes, it’s important to remember that none of the other requirements of the release form policies have changed, including the following:

  • All of the rules about when releases are required still apply. 
  • Releases still can not be combined with event sign-in rosters, or presented as a necessary part of attending an event or holding an office. 
  • Offices which have collected a release still must be able to provide a copy of it on request in the future, and thus releases must be maintained in an organized and reliable filing system (either on paper or electronically) that will be handed off to future office holders.

Sample Email-Based Release Processes

Given the new guidance, here are two sample scenario for how an officer might collect a model release form from someone who appears in a photo they want to publish on their local branch website:

Plain-Text Email Process

  • An officer emails an individual a plain-text version of the model release form along with a message saying something like “I took this picture of you at last week’s event; may I have your permission to publish it on our website? You don’t have to agree, but if you’re comfortable with this, please fill in the blanks below and email back saying that you agree to the terms of the release.”  
  • The individual either declines, or fills in the blank spots in the release form text with the necessary information and sends it back with a statement of agreement.
  • The officer reviews the release to ensure it is complete, and archives it by exporting it to a standard format and copying it to their branch’s cloud storage service, or by printing it and adding to their paper files, or by otherwise preserving it in some reliable fashion.

Web Forms and Email Process

  • An officer emails an individual a link to a web-based release form along with a message saying something like “I took this picture of you at last week’s event; may I have your permission to publish it on our website? You don’t have to agree, but if you’re comfortable with this, please fill in this web form and then forward the email it generates back to me to confirm that you agree to the terms of the release.”  
  • The individual either declines, or clicks the link to access a web form that was previously created by the officer or their kingdom.
  • The web form guides the individual through filling in the blank fields with the necessary information, validates it,  and when the form is submitted, emails them a copy of their entry and stores a copy of the values in a database or spreadsheet.
  • The individual receives the email generated by the form and forwards it to the relevant officer with a statement of agreement.
  • The officer reviews the release to ensure it is complete, and marks it as executed by updating the database or spreadsheet to record that they received the email.

Plain-Text Versions of the Release Forms

For convenience, here are plain-text versions of the standard release forms that could be used in one of the email-based processes described above.

Model Release Form

I, [_ your legal name _], being known within the Society for Creative Anachronism as [_ your SCA name _], do hereby grant permission to the SCA to use my likeness as follows:

[_] The SCA may publish any photograph taken of me in any SCA publication, including print, web and electronic. I reserve the right to ask that any specific picture on the web or in electronic media be removed.
PLEASE STOP: If you checked Option #1, do not check any of the Options below, just read to the bottom then fill in the date and your mailing address.

With regard to the photograph of me taken by [_ enter photographer’s name here _], the SCA may (check all that apply):
[_] publish my photo with any article or as a stand-alone picture in any SCA publication, including print, web and electronic.
[_] publish my photo on a SCA web site for [_ group or event name _];
[_] publish my photo once in an issue of [_ publication name _]
    [_] publish my photo no more than [___] times in the above publication;
[_] publish my photo with the article entitled [_ article name _]
    [_] publish my photo in any re-print of the above publication including electronic form;

I affirm and agree:
1. that this agreement shall be binding upon me and my heirs, legal representatives and assigns.
2. that I am over the age of majority and at least eighteen years of age and legally able to sign this release on my own behalf. If I am not, the name and signature of my legal guardian appear below as authorization for this use.
3. to indemnify and hold harmless the SCA in the event any claim is brought against the SCA by any person claiming that this Release is not valid and enforceable or that I did not have lawful authority to grant the above permission and rights to the SCA.

I have read the above Release prior to its execution and fully understand the contents and consequences thereof.

Date: [_ today’s date _]
Mailing Address: [_ your mailing address _]

If I am executing this Release as a Parent or Guardian, I consent to the use of my child’s image or photograph as set out above, and I agree that if despite the Release, my child makes a claim against the SCA, I will hold harmless and indemnify the SCA for any damages it may incur as a result of said claim.

Legal Guardian’s Name: [_ legal name of child identified above _]

Photographer Release Form

[To Be Added]

Creative Work Transfer / Grant Form

[To Be Added]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *