Promo to commercial ?? at

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Old March 7th, 2009, 09:33 PM   #1
Major Player
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: East Moline, IL
Posts: 231
Promo to commercial ??

So I produced a promo video for a local company that that includes bars, a comedy club and a restaurant all in one building. They play this video before all of the shows. They were iffy of the price from the beginning but we finally settled on a deal and I filmed and produced this DVD for them. I was just watching tv and realized that they had taken the dvd that I made for the shows, gave it to someone who cut it apart and is now making commercials out of it. I'm initially kind of pissed about this because they're obviously taking business away from me and also reusing something that I have the copyright to correct??? Based on my previous conversations with them, I'm assuming some employee just ripped the dvd and put together a :30 spot for free for them. On top of this, it looks like crap because that's how it was cut together for the commercial.

Am I right to be pissed about this? They don't have the right to do that do they ? There wasn't a big contract or anything because it was to be played for the shows and nothing about commercials or any other medium was ever mentioned. Is that something I need to state in the future to cover my bases or are they still in the wrong this time?

Curious on your thoughts!! and thanks!!

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Old March 8th, 2009, 01:02 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Bridgewater, NJ
Posts: 65
I'm far from being knowledgeable on this topic, but since no one else has responded yet, I'll give you my take on it.

You still own the copyright for your material unless you signed it away in your contract. If you signed it away, and your client owns the copyright, then I think they are within their rights to make a commercial using that content.

If you did not give them the copyright, and there was an agreed upon purpose for your content (ie. as a promotional video before shows) other than commercials, then they would not have the rights to re-edit it and distribute it as a commercial.

You might have better luck discussing this issue in the "taking care of business" forum. The people who frequent there are extremely knowledgeable, and some of them are even lawyers, so they have good opinions (but of course, their advice wouldn't constitute legal advice, since lawyers would have to do that on the clock...otherwise they could get into trouble if they're wrong).

Keep in mind that in order to defend a copyright in court, it needs to be registered (which is something like a $35 fee or so).

Here's my advice: call up your client and tell them that they violated your copyright in cutting a commercial. Legally, you don't want to give any of your clients the impression that they can do whatever they want with your material (since in a way, I would presume that allowing one client to use your material to make a commercial would be setting a precedent in a way). So you can't allow them to continue, but you would be glad to cut the commercial for them, or even license the footage from you so that they can continue to run the commercial that they have.

Good luck! I hope you can solve the issues at hand!
Glenn Fisher is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 8th, 2009, 01:26 PM   #3
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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Honolulu, HI
Posts: 2,053
The company could claim that it's a work-for-hire situation, in which they own the copyright and can do whatever they want with the footage.

For whatever reason the company decided not to get in contact with you to do a version for the commercial and that has to be considered, too.

These sort of rights have to be spelled out in advance and in writing. If there's a contract spelling out usage and rights from the very start then perhaps that could be pointed out in your discussions with the company's management.

For example, if I were to produce a commercial that's used on our show, the client can't take a copy of it to broadcast elsewhere unless they pay a fee to make it "portable". And that is spelled out in the contract.

Another example is that sometimes on-camera talent will sign a contract that allows a company to use their image on-air for a fixed length of time. After which a new contract has to be re-negotiated and fees established for usage.

The cost of fighting it, should it come to that, could far exceed any benefit. Lawyers charge approximately $300 per hour and those hours add up fast. In which case it would have to be considered an expensive business lesson.
Dean Sensui
Exec Producer, Hawaii Goes Fishing
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