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
This post is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice specific to you. This general information is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney in your jurisdiction. The attorney client relationship is not established by this post.
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.
The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.
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."
I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
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.
I am an attorney, but I am not YOUR attorney. By providing free, generalized information, I am not entering into an attorney/client relationship with you, nor am I providing legal advice applicable to your particular needs.