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Taking Care of Business
The pen and paper aspects of DV -- put it in writing!


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Old December 11th, 2010, 11:11 AM   #1
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Protecting My Rights as Writer/Director of a Music Video

I couldn't figure out where else to post this.

I have been commisioned to shoot a music for a local artist. They are NOT signed, but it looks like they will be shortly. They have a REALLY good chance of making it big. I've known them for the last 10 years and we've been friends that whole time. BUT, I want to protect my rights on this video as I am one of the writers of the video.

If the people that sign them want to use the video, that would be fine, but I would want to be compensated. Should I get an agent? Should I get an entertainment lawyer? How soon? We are in the writing stage, so I should have some time right?

I don't know if anyone here has expierence with this or not.
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Old December 12th, 2010, 10:20 PM   #2
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You SHOULD get an experienced entertainment lawyer on this for you as soon as possible.
In fact, since you've started writing without a written contract, you may already have hurt your position a bit. If you're deemed to be collaborating with the band members, you're a joint owner, and they can use what you help create in ways that you might not agree with.

Protecting your rights in the video really means making sure you get paid appropriately.

So, start by setting your price. Set it appropriately without regard for whether the band is signed. Then, you can discuss deferring part of your payment until they ARE signed. BUT, be advised that once they're signed, the label will be calling the shots, and may not want to use your video.

So, make sure it's worth your while, either way.

Gordon P. Firemark
Entertainment Law
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Old December 13th, 2010, 10:55 AM   #3
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thanks Gordon!
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Old December 15th, 2010, 09:33 AM   #4
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Thanks for sharing, this is some really nice "Food for thought"
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Old December 15th, 2010, 11:26 PM   #5
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if the band gets signed. and the record company actually does want to use your video, do you realize how many people would view that video? If i was in the same position and a band got signed and the record label liked my video that much to use it. I wouldn't care about charging anything. If its good enough for a label to want to use it, mass people will be wanting a video by you.
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Old December 16th, 2010, 03:42 AM   #6
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Well, it's called show BUSINESS, so it's also a matter of making a return on your investment.
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Old December 16th, 2010, 04:43 AM   #7
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This always happens when friends collaborate. I'm old enough and wise enough to have kind of found a pleasant way around this. The thing is a gamble, and because the projects can head off in different ways, while you are friends, chat about it. I'll use a recent example - known a composer and musician for a long time and he decided to write some specific music for a project he had, hoping to make some money. I handled the recording, marketing and all the practical elements. He wrote it and played it. When we talked it through, he might sell lots or hardly any. Equally I might be able to make money from using the music, or selling it too. In the end, we agreed that as we both had no real idea which way it would go, he'd pay me a straight percentage of his retail sales, and I'd pay him a percentage of any income I get from it. We both agreed it was a gamble - and one or other of us could really run with it - or both could fail and not find a market. We sent emails to each other confirming the percentages we'd agreed to, and now it simply doesn't matter if it takes off, we have our bases covered. If he (he won't) signs and sells millions, then it shouldn't matter - there's a record of our agreement. Not a proper contract, but clear statements from both sides with a paper trail.

I'd suggest something similar could work for the video - especially if you get along now. So ask them what you should do if YOU can sell the video and make money - what's fair? Same thing, if THEY do something with the product and make some money, how can this be worked out with fairness. While you both have little money to complicate things, these agreements are not difficult to work out. If they then get a record company involved, then the video is already a done deal, so any changes need to be negotiated as the band and you already have something in place.

The usual suggestion is to do proper legal contracts which always is difficult between friends when the stakes are low.

On the concept of doing it for nothing hoping to get extra work from your association - does that ever happen nowadays? My experience of lower budget projects that expand is that the big fish discard the little ones and dump you - not carrying you for the ride. The public don't care who directed something because unless you are a top dog, they're not aware of your creative input - a few people will be, but until your name sells a product, nobody is really bothered.

For decent worthwhile projects I'm interested in, I am quite willing to work for expenses if it's in my downtime and isn't actually costing me too much - and do a percentage deal. My success rate is about 1 in 4 actually pay!
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Old December 17th, 2010, 01:24 AM   #8
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I am not a lawyer. I've never played a lawyer on TV. I don't even WANT to be a lawyer.

However, as I understand it:

A contract doesn't have to be in writing to be an enforceable "proper contract" (at least in the US)

In order for a contract to exist there has to be an offer, an acceptance, and a consideration.

The consideration doesn't have to be in money - an action (or the forbearance from performing an action, as in if you don't park your car in front of my house, I won't play my stereo after 11PM) can be a consideration in this sense.

At least this is sort of how I remember the judge explaining it when I was a juror in a contract dispute case, and also pretty much how the I think the teacher explained it when I took a short course on contracts once upon a time.

But what do I know? I'm probably full of S--t!

And a paper trail is always a great thing to have around. Even an e-mail trail.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 05:39 AM   #9
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I was in business with a friend (a vicar!) and he was great at generating business and getting funding - however, he (probably because of his beliefs) always trusted everyone and kinds of assumed the people he dealt with would be honourable. Imagine my surprise seeing a programme on satellite that was a re-edit of one of our sell-through products. I couldn't work it out because we'd spent a great deal of time working out the contract terms that specifically prevented the client selling it on and banning any kind of broadcast use. "Ah", he said - "it seemed so unfriendly, I didn't actually use it. They seemed so nice!" Oops!
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Old December 17th, 2010, 12:00 PM   #10
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Well I consulted a lawyer...

And I am getting a contract drawn up with the things I want for free (well she gets a discounted price on a commercial spot)

I have decided that these things will be in it.

My written permission is needed for anyone other than the Artist to display it.

Deferred one time payment if the artist gets signed.

Full credit listing everywhere, anytime the video is displayed with my website address and first and last name.

I'll add some stuff as i think of them. I have a couple days to get it to the artist.
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