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Old February 9th, 2004, 06:44 PM   #1
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Legal issue regarding unhappy Bride (video)

I know a guy who did a wedding video for a friend for a dirtcheap cash price. (I don't know how cheap so for the sake of this let's call it FREE.) She got his tape, but she was totally unhappy with it. Basically he botched the job 100% and he even recorded several songs over the whole thing because the audio turned out poor. Unfortunately the location audio includes the speech that her father-in-law gave as part of the wedding ceremony.

Rather then offer her the total run of unedited footage he claims ownership of it and is telling her, "you got a tape from me and now our deal is over".

So she has a super-crappy tape with some songs this guy likes and can't even hear the dialog from the ceremony where the audio was poor albeit understandable. Sounds like this guy is "less then cool" doesn't it? Yeah that's why I'm not friends with him anymore... but aside from that I'm just wondering...

What is HER legal recourse?

And in a NORMAL situation what happens when the Bride doesn't like a decent video?
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Old February 9th, 2004, 07:33 PM   #2
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Well I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV so I might be wrong but, if there was no written contract and/or no money changed hands for the work, then she's SOL. Even if there is a contract or money was exchanged she'd still be behind the 8ball unless she can PROVE that she saw samples of his work and the work he did for her was not up to the standards she saw in his other work that she did see (if she saw any).

Frankly, as much as I feel for the young lady it sounds like she got what she paid for, in the sense that she "hired" an inexperienced person to capture one of the most important days of her life and because he is a dolt,moron and an idiot, she ultimately suffers.

As for ownership of the raw footage, thats really up to him. He shot it, so technically it's his.

This is another reason that I get aggrevated when people say 'Awww, we don't need a contract, we're friends' or whatever-YES you do need one as it protects BOTH parties and don't get me started on the person who has no clue about doing a wedding, doesn't care and has no respect for the people or the craft. Them I hate, because they give all of us that do weddings for a living and treat the client with respect and honor their day, a black eye.
I'm not talking about the person who is just starting out and is SERIOUS but the one's that have a camera and say "well, I'll shoot a couple of weddings just to make some fast money" and honestly not even all of those folks but there are some like the one your frined had shoot her special day that should have their camera stuck in their body in such a way so the only way they could shoot a wedding would be to turn around, bend over and grab their ankles.

As for a normal situation, I can only speak for myself. When I meet with a client they view my work, not a demo but a wedding from the place they're getting married and many times from the same place they are having their reception. They see my style, my content, we talk a bit and if they like it, they hire (hopefully) if they don't like it, they don't hire me. If after all is said and done they request any changes in the finished product, unless its a misspelling or a really stupid play on my part, they pay for the re-edit. Last year I had 1 of 61 weddings that I had to redo 1 name. I try to be careful and I have a pretty strong contract and much of my work comes from referrals now so I don't have too much of that type of thing going on.
As for legal recourse, chances are she has none but as I said I'm not a lawyer, she might want to make a call.
Anyway Matt, I'm sorry this happened to your friend but truthfully it sounds likes she's got the short end of the stick.

I apologize for the long post but it's kind of a complicated question and without all the facts I'm trying to cover all the bases for you. Good luck to your friend,
Don
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Old February 9th, 2004, 09:05 PM   #3
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I'm not a laywer, but I sometimes tell women I am to get them in(cough)
Anyway, I don't want to sound like a dink, but this is a case of "you get what you pay for".
If there is no contract stating different, then I believe he has the rights to the original footage he shot. If I was her, I would offer him an extra $35 for the original tape.

I've made some money re-editing footage shot by "$100 a day, friend of a friend" videographers for unhappy brides. I've never seen one with good audio. I can't really give the brides any sympathy. What goes through their brains when they pay a photographer $500-$1000 but don't want to pay a videographer more than $200?
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Old February 9th, 2004, 11:23 PM   #4
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Thanks for the input guys. I couldn't agree more on ALL points. I was curious what you'd say.

I'm a firm believer in "you get what you pay for" and I get pissed at the attitudes of many people that video should be cheap 'cause so many people have video cameras. I can't believe how photography can command such a price and be viewed as art. Afterall, can you buy a disposable video camera anywhere?

Anyway, at least this gives me a bit to chew on and maybe somebody else will have a similar question which will be answered within this...

This came up because me, being a dumb samaritan, told this guy that I would "see what I could do" when he told me his sob story about this wedding. He ended up dumping an hour and a half of sh*t footage off on me and after I played with it for four hours and made little progress, I had to call and tell him that I just wasn't going to spend 40 hours trying to make his garbage presentable.

If anything I'm pissed that I didn't laugh him out of my house when he first showed me the footage. I thought he and I were going to collaborate on other REAL projects later and that's the ONLY reason I lowered myself to begin sculpting crap... He IS a good actor. As it turns out our "partnership" dissolved before I gave him any decent free work anyway.

I just couldn't help thinking about this girl as I formatted the drive that held that 1.5 hours of garbage.

She's a stranger to me and she lives in CA or else I'd have just pumped out the footage and sent it to her anyway... it's gone now though.

I'll never understand why people take ownership of everything they shoot... some things, YES... EVERYTHING? NO. If I shoot something that's total junk and yet it's valuable to somebody else then I say "HERE, but don't put my name on it!"

As far as being a "videographer", when I see people take ownership of junk I figure that says a lot about their worth as a videographer.

I've been into photography for 15 years and I've always had a saying, "Professional photographers are NOT judged by the pictures they take... they are judged by the pictures they SHOW you!"

And personally I take that one step further and make it, "...and I judge them by the pictures they SAVE."

I've got a chest with about 30 pounds of photos/negatives in it. If every negative had a photo then it would be 300 pounds!

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Old February 10th, 2004, 11:43 PM   #5
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If you pay somebody less than $1000 for wedding video, basically you are just paying them to be there, and the equipment rental. The same goes for photographer when you pay less than $500. They are in no position to guarantee you anything.

If some people where using simple home video camera to do the job, or even a DV cam but still not the right equipment (like lavalier mic) then the people hiring them deserves what they get, because they are _____.

I always stress to potential customers that w/o proper lavalier mic, the speech is going to be bad, and most likely unusable. Funny thing is, in my short career as wedding videographer, my sales pitch success rate is almost 100%. I just wish more people would call (darn it!).

Seen a few "expensive" wedding videos ($2000+) the last few months, some of people are horrible even at that price. One obviously mic'ed only the groom, with the preacher so far away, he sounded like a bad echo chamber.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 12:03 AM   #6
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Whether she has a case or not...if it's important to her she can probably get an attorney to file an injuction forcing the Guy With Video Camera not to destory the tape, pending a court decision. Then write the guy a fancy letter about how easy it would be to avoid costly litigation, by just giving his raw footage to a third party editor, who will try and salvage the video at your friends expense, and then return the tape to the Guy With Video Camera. Let Guy With Video Camera keep general copyright, she just wants a re-edit for her own pleasure not for distribution.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 06:49 AM   #7
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Law,
I hate to disagree but there is no dollar amount that seperates amature from from professional. Either she paid or not AND even if she did, with out a written contract she has very little to stand on legally.

(BTW, even when money changes hands that does not automatically put someone into a professional level. There is more than that to it by the strict letter of the law.)

Martin, as for her getting a lawyer and sending a letter, yes, she could certainly do that and might even do that, however just for chuckles, I called and asked my attorney about it and without quoting the law, as I'm not an attorney and really don't want to get it wrong, he said, yeah-she could do that but frankly unless the letter the letter alone worked, no further action needed by the attorney, she would have no real legal cause as long as there was no contract and if there was money exchanged, contract or not, he is only obligated for the dollar amount that she paid to him. Plus the only way an attorney would take this on is with a bunch of her money up front since there's no real financial gain to be made on this "case".

Frankly it seems to me (and my lawyer) that she's pissed, rightfully or not is not for us to say, and is looking to get something for that and we probably can't blame her if the video is as bad as stated here, but her case is so weak that no judge would probably even hear it.
If the guy was any kind of guy, just give her the footage and be done with it and stop give every person who does wedding videos a black eye.
Just my $300.00 worth (remember I talked to my attorney :-)
Don
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Old February 11th, 2004, 07:45 AM   #8
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This is the sort of thing that's going to vary from state to state. One option is if you don't want to pay for a lawyer, go to the small claims court in the county, since the amount is (relatively) small, and you can try to get your money back. If you can consult with a lawyer in your state, find out if there's any implied warranty of quality for this sort of thing. Sometimes there are objective quality determinations that can be made in cases like this. You never know what might happen, and the best thing is you're only out the filing fee and sometimes, if you lose, the other side's filing fee, but it's not much.

Law, no offense, but you don't know what you're talking about vis a vis that $1000/500 distinction.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 08:55 AM   #9
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Peter, please, educate us, what demarcations would you use, or how would you separate the "pro's" from the sweatshops?
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Old February 11th, 2004, 09:21 AM   #10
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I've done several weddings for $650. I've never had an unhappy bride. I don't do weddings full time, but I do consider myself a "video professional".
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Old February 11th, 2004, 10:25 AM   #11
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The use of the term professional in brochures or sales presentations would indicate you consider yourself professional and should be held to certain standards of quality. If you charge for your services, even if this particular job was no charge indicates professionalism. Do you belong to any professional associations, guilds, or organizations? If so, they may indicate professionalism. The determination of professional status will vary from state to state, so consult a local attorney.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 10:37 AM   #12
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Law, what Jeff said. Plus, maybe I misunderstood, but it sounded as though you were saying because the price was low, you have no legal expectation of professional quality. That would definitely be wrong. I apologize if I misunderstood you to be making a legal assesment.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 11:58 AM   #13
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I don't know about you guys, but my equipment are so "first class" (sarcasm abound, for those like "me", who WOULD take it the wrong way and get offended), anything below $1000 would just be equipment rental, plus minimum wage.

I use a DSR-250 as the main camera plus VX2100 as the 2nd camera. Plus multiple lavalier and shotgun mics, diversity receivers, mixer, on-camera lightings ready to go, etc.

Putting together the equipment, charging the batteries, straining like hell to remember what I may have forgotten. And afterwards, days of editing, sync'ing the audio, creative efforts, designing the DVD cover, etc. Hey, $1000 is probably less than minimum wage.

Many of us do it because it is "fun", but in reality, it is slave wage.

BTW, I do it "on the side" also, so I am not bumped others are charging less, but let's call it what it is, cheap, despite many of ours looking like they are worth tens of thousands. The brides should be very very thankful, to say the least.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 12:19 PM   #14
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This type of thing is a good reason to own Errors and Omissions insurance. There was a case several years ago that was similar to the story told at the beginning of this thread. The photographers (still photography) camera malfunctioned and he got very few if any usable shots. The bride sued and the photographer was forced to fly in out of town members of the wedding party, rent the hall and church, rent tuxes and gowns, have a cake made etc.
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Old February 11th, 2004, 12:44 PM   #15
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Jeff

Why didn't the photographer just refund the money? Or do you mean that his insurance covered all those expenses of recreating the wedding?
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