Yes, I believe you need the talent release to use the video. I would think the freelancer wants to get paid - if you can still hold up his fee until he gets the talent release I would do that.
You may want to discuss your problem with a lawyer in more detail. Most lawyers on Avvo, including myself, offer a free phone consult.
Andrew M. Jaffe
Attorney at Law
Practice Limited to E-Commerce and Internet Law
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It is a great deal safer for you to have those releases. I agree with my colleague in that it is appropriate to withhold payment until the releases are provided. If you already have paid, then you have other alternatives. Speak with an attorney to discuss further. Many reputable attorneys provide a free consultation.
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Too many pronouns and imprecise terms to be clear, but I presume you are saying you hired an independent contractor to make an advertising video having a performance by some person or an endorsement by some celebrity. Which is not clear from our question, but I am presuming you use "talent" to mean performer, whether actor, composer, lyricist, scriptwriter, instrumentalist, musician, spokesperson, or some other type of performer hired by the independent contractor.
Yes, you should insist on having proof of at least a license to use the copyright of the "talent" [ a "release" in your words], and preferably an assignment of the copyright so the performance cannot be reused for someone other than you.
You say you have an "acknowledgment" from "them" that you own the video. If "them" is the talent, that may well be a release. If "them" is the freelancer, then the acknowledgment might constitute an enforceable warranty, depending on the wording of the "acknowledgment".
With all this ambiguity and imprecision, I am certain you need to see an IP attorney or entertainment attorney to clear up the imprecision and get the required releases and/or assignments. Exactly what you need depends on the use you intend to make of these "videos/testimonials."
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It seems like you may be asking about two distinct questions. One is whether the actors/performers in the video (i.e, the talent) have given sufficient permission to be featured in the video. The other is whether you will own the copyright in the video. Ideally, the contractor would have everyone appearing in the video sign some sort of release and would be willing to show those releases to you to quell your fears of liability. Also, you should absolutely have a written and signed work-made-for-hire agreement and/or assignment of rights from the contractor to make sure you own the copyright in the video.
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