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Old March 28th, 2010, 05:29 PM   #1
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New videomaker wants to understand how not to get sued

There appears to be a lot of different legal considerations for a videomaker.

For my particular project, I will be doing a expose on the work of a few individuals. So I need to understand how I can present their work in a way that is not infringing on copyright or that is not plagerism.

I need to do interviews with people and I need to understand what I would have to have them sign in order to release the rights to the interview to me.

I would be doing shots outdoors that might involve visible signage and logos of trademarked products.

I would be doing shoots of the public, so I would have to understand the legalities around displaying the image of other people.

I would be using stock footage and stock audio recordings. I'd have to be sure to understand the licesnces and how to reference them (i.e., what do I have to reference in the credits?).

I might be using some public domain or creative commons material in my project.

I might be doing phone interviews that I would record and have someone fax or email their consent to use.

I will be having someone do the voice-overs for the video for free, but I'd still need a contract/release.

Etc.

Is there a good web site, forum, book, anything, that covers the ins and outs of the various things a video maker has to take into consideration?

My regards,

MC
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Old March 28th, 2010, 05:35 PM   #2
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Long story short - EVEN IF you follow the law to the very letter, you can still get sued. There is no NEED for a lawsuit to be clear cut. One can usually find a lawyer with "a differing legal opinion" or "questions that need answering".

Thankfully, we in Canada are generally less litigious than our neighbours to the south but there is still opportunity.

I was involved in some back and forth discussion last year about media rights and THANKFULLY the discussion stopped after the client consulted legal opinion from their own counsel before I needed to contact mine. I was in the right BUT had they decided to pursue, I would have either needed to concede OR incur legal costs which may have completely wiped out any monies I had made on the project in the first place.

A good accountant and an honest lawyer who consults for cheap are your best friends in any independent business.

You DO seem to have a good start though in terms of understanding what you CAN do to limit liability.
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Old March 29th, 2010, 05:20 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Capowski View Post
...
Is there a good web site, forum, book, anything, that covers the ins and outs of the various things a video maker has to take into consideration?

My regards,

MC
Yes there is! There's an amazing place where you can find answers all of your questions. It's called "Law School" followed by a specialization in copyright, intellectual property, and entertainment law. That's why the best advice you can get is to spend a few hundred bucks of your start-up capital to consult with someone who has gone there. Another often overlooked source of such information, often available for free no less, is to check with the business reference branch of your local public library - those in major cities usually have an extensive collection of references that would answer a lot of your questions.
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Last edited by Steve House; March 29th, 2010 at 09:33 AM.
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Old March 29th, 2010, 06:48 AM   #4
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The 2 best investments a person can make when starting a business venture like yours are, in no particular order, 1) a good, knowledgeable accountant and 2) a good knowledgeable attorney.
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Old March 29th, 2010, 10:33 AM   #5
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Keep in mind, anything you read will be one person's opinion. Shawn is right, no matter what you do, somewhere someone will have another opinion - and a lawyer to back them up.

So we just do what we can to cover our assets and learn to live with the uncertainty. If you can't find that comfort zone, don't do the project.

You wanted something to read. I found this to be interesting: Model Releases but it's one person's opinion.
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Old March 29th, 2010, 11:25 AM   #6
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As a college law profession once said to me, "anybody can sue anybody, it's a matter of whether they will win. When in doubt, consult a lawyer before you do the deed."

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Old March 29th, 2010, 10:28 PM   #7
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Thank you all for the replies.

My project does not have the funding for a lawyer or an accountant so I will continue to find guidance/recommendations. I hear you all though when you say that there are no certainties so I will make sure I act with care, insure the legality of my actions, and document my digilence.

I will post a summary of the guidelines I've found when I've collected a few.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 05:43 AM   #8
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While I understand the cash flow challenge, I suggest you might seek out a lawyer at a legal clinic or call the bar association and find someone that can a least give you at legal overview maybe a half hour or so. Many times the first 1/2 hour is free or at a reduced rate. You own due diligence will not protect you or give you the protection you might need. Neither will an hour with a lawyer who specializes in that are of law but even half that time with a generalist might give you some information that might save you thousands later.
In any case good luck with your project.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 06:59 PM   #9
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"Thankfully, we in Canada are generally less litigious than our neighbours to the south but there is still opportunity."

We're going to have to sue you now for saying that! ;)

Nothing hurts as much as the truth, man.
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Old March 30th, 2010, 07:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Spahr View Post
"Thankfully, we in Canada are generally less litigious than our neighbours to the south but there is still opportunity."

We're going to have to sue you now for saying that! ;)
My lawyer has advised me to point out that what I meant by "neighbours to the south" was the indigenous penguin population of Antarctica and that I meant no offense to the peaceful and non-litigious folks that live in the great US of A.

See what I mean by "One can usually find a lawyer with 'a differing legal opinion'"?
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Old March 30th, 2010, 07:08 PM   #11
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exposť [ɛksˈpəʊzeɪ] n
1. the act or an instance of bringing a scandal, crime, etc., to public notice
2. (Communication Arts / Journalism & Publishing) an article, book, film or statement that discloses a scandal, crime, etc.

"So I need to understand how I can present their work in a way that is not infringing on copyright or that is not plagerism. I would be doing shots outdoors that might involve visible signage and logos of trademarked products. My project does not have the funding for a lawyer or an accountant so I will continue to find guidance/recommendations."

You want to know how important the message you are trying to portray is versus your personal exposure. If you cannot afford counsel you most certainly cannot sustain a lawsuit. The ultimate question is not how much money YOU have, it's how much money those have whom personal/copyright/logos/trademarks etc is infringed on. Perceived, real or otherwise.

If you have never had the firm, Fester Carbuncle and Boil living up your butt, you haven't really experienced life to it's fullest. The retainer you would need to defend yourself would easily be 10 times the amount seeking counsel beforehand. Just my two cents but hey, I live in New York.
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