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Old April 6th, 2011, 06:25 PM   #1
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my work re-edited without permission

A couple of months ago I did a job for a non-profit foundation in a small city a couple of hours away from home. The project involved two tribute videos for a couple of people getting an award. The end product was well-recieved, and the Foundation put the videos up on their website, and asked that they be placed on You tube as well, which they were.

These videos were very individual, and event specific. Both were properly copyrighted in the credits.

I got a call from the Foundation yesterday saying that they had attended an awards banquet over the weekend, where one of the same people recieved another award. in tribute, they ran a video...the one I had shot a couple of months ago, strategically edited to eliminate both the original Foundation's name, the title of the original award, and the copyright info.

What makes it "extra" interesting is that the parties involved in this copyright "issue" are ALL involved in the broadcasting industry. ALL of them.
They are located in a small city ( about 20,000 people), and represent the only radio and T.V. stations in the area.
When I contacted both, their reaction was pretty much "so what?"... very much a "big fish in a small pond" syndrome.

Now, here's my quandry..there is obvious copyright issues at play here. I could care less if I work in the community again, however my original client, who depends on this town for much of it's fundraising activities are concerned about the dynamics of engaging in a court battle for fear of having all the advertising avenues available to them cut off. While they are co-holders of the copyright on the material, I had sole creative control over the project so I hold the intellectual and artistic rights to the work.

My inclination is to haul their sorry a**es into court; I find the whole attitude to be very high-handed to the point of being bullies, and I don't take bullying very well. However, my original client was a dream to work with (complete creative control, no budget concerns, multi year agreement up front), and I don't want to make their life difficult by being a hard-a**.

So...my original question...what would you do? I have several options; I've already sent them all cease and desist letters, I can follow it up with having charges preferred, file a suit against them, demand payment for use of the material, etc.OR, I can leave it alone and hope that they realize they screwed up.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 07:15 AM   #2
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re: my work re-edited without permission

Did the other group just run the edited version of your video once, or did they post it somewhere? How I would respond in your situation would depend upon the severity (amount of actual harm vs. "how upset") the infringement made me. If they only showed it once at their award ceremony, I'd probably let it slide after letting them know that I noticed their infringement (which you've already done).

However, if they posted on YouTube, that's an entirely different matter. That's something I might pursue, depending upon various factors, some of which you've already mentioned.

I know it's a cliche', put it really does make since to "pick your battles." Not every offense is worth reacting to. Instead of hauling them into court, you could have your attorney send them a letter reminding them they've broken the law.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 09:16 AM   #3
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re: my work re-edited without permission

If they had just played the video direct from YouTube, I would have done nothing. In fact, I would have supported it.

But since they edited out the info regarding you and the organization, I would send them a bill. If I were in charge, I would send them an invoice for half the cost what it cost to create the video. If they refuse to pay it, I would take them to court.

This is unacceptable, especially among broadcast companies. They knew what they were doing, and they wanted to get a free ride on the other organization's dime.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 09:21 AM   #4
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re: my work re-edited without permission

Thread title changed from "what would you do?" to "my work re-edited without permission" -- please avoid ambiguous thread titles.

They probably copped that attitude because they know it would be prohibitively expensive for you to pursue it legally (cost of litigation will more than likely far exceed the scope of this infringement). But you should consult with an IP attorney most definitely.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 11:08 AM   #5
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

thanks Chris. Sorry about the title.

I agree that they probably went with attitude for the very reason you describe. I too would have supported it being shown in it's original version; in fact I would likely have offered assistance to modify it enough to be unique for their purposes.

They are miffed apparently that my client went outside the community to have the work done by hiring me, so I suspect that there is an element of "pay-back" involved.

In any event, I don't want to burn any bridges for my client. I've sent them all "cease and desist" letters, clearly explained to them that " I didn't know" is NOT a defence that flys, and that this is the only "pass" they will ever get from me.

I've also filed a complaint with the CRTC ( Canadian Radio and Television Commission). Their reaction to this sort of thing generally involves their sending a "knock it off" letter to the broadcaster, but more importantly becomes part of public record for examination and review when their licence comes up for renewal. Hopefully they will think long and hard about stepping on someone's copyrights in future.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 12:04 PM   #6
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

If you haven't already done so, I would think that just contacting YouTube with a notice of infringement would get the video yanked there. That is at least a partial victory for free, eh?
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Old April 7th, 2011, 02:18 PM   #7
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Ok, let me see, I'm gathering the video shown was downloaded from the YouTube video you posted at the client request (presumably the source of the material if I read this correctly)?

The footage was then edited by "someone" to remove the "credits"? Then used for the single presentation? Was the awards banquet a paid event, another non-profit, or what was the nature of the organization that "sponsored" the infringement? Was any "profit" derived?

Those are some questions that come to mind. If this was a "single" instance, both you and the foundation should send C&D letters and probably leave it at that. Don't know the recovery available in Canada, but not sure you'd get much, although you'd likely prevail under the circumstances you've described. If there are "stautory" mandated damages that might provide some "recovery", but again what is the applicable Canadian law?

You may want to seek the advise of a good IP attorney, but as you've described the organization you originally created the video for as "they are co-holders of the copyright on the material", I suspect they would have to agree to any further action. They of course should also send C&D letters as well.

Depending on the "politics" of the situation, I'd suggest "lemons to lemonade", by giving them a stern warning, but also indicating that as a fellow professional, they can and should in the future approach you, and you would be perfectly willing to work with them so that they do not violate your intellectual property rights, and would have re-edited the footage for a nominal fee, to suit their needs, as long as the "co-copyright holder" was amenable. Sort of a way to shame them into tossing something your way... knowing they dodged a bullet. Just a thought.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 10:19 PM   #8
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Dave,

You're correct with almost all of your assumptions. The entity that downloaded it from YouTube and modified it removed all reference to the original award, the Foundation that paid for the video and sponsored the award, as well as removed the copyright credits at the end of the piece.

They then ran the modifed piece at a paid event, and represented it as an original work. It stinks to high heaven....very unethical from top to bottom, and the really sad part is the guy directly responsible for the editing is the owner of the T.V. station; the one peson who, of anyone should have known better.

I did basically what you were suggesting; both I and the Foundation have sent them C&D letters, and in my letter I indicated to them that had they asked, I would have been more than happy to have not only given them permission, I would have helped them edit it, since I have a lot of B-roll from the shoot that could have been easily substituted and truly given them a new product. They're pretty clear on the point that they dodged a bullet by me being a "nice guy"...although I doubt I'd ever see a nickel out of them without taking them to court. The Canadian Courts have taken a pretty hard line of copyright issues in the last couple of years, so I suspect that given the circumstances I could have made out allright had I taken that step.

Like I said though, my client is the sort of customer you dream about having, and the last thing I'd want to do is burn them. It's an odd community dynamic at play, and the politics in the community are pretty typical for a small community; a small group of business people at the top of the food chain that do whatever they want with relative impunity. Hopefully some lessons that were badly needed were delivered.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 01:45 PM   #9
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Update - I recieved a very apologetic letter from the group responsible for this whole issue. They recognize that they trod on litignous territory and that they are lucky to have "dodged a bullet"

They have also requested permission to broadcast the material on the local cable channel with whatever conditions I and the other copyright holder may set. I'm waiting for a copy of the edited file, and after review will add a leader to the clip with the properly worded permissions to re-broadcast.

This would appear to finally be a situation where some important lessons were learned. I doubt very much that they will make the same error in judgement again; at least not with me.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 03:09 PM   #10
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

That sounds good, glad to hear it's working out - oftentimes communication DOES do the trick! Hopefully it will result in a longer term, respectful association.

I think it's hard sometimes even for pros to sort out the ins and outs of copyright in the digital age. Watched a little short on my internet connected BR about early video game development, and they talked about all the litigation that was flying around with the "new" technology... we're right at that "magic" spot where sorting out the 1's and 0's and the creative implications of how they are arranged and sorted into something tangible is still being figured out. It's a brave new digital world, should keep the lawyers fairly busy for a while longer!

Fortunately this time it looks to have worked out!
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Old April 10th, 2011, 06:42 AM   #11
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
I think it's hard sometimes even for pros to sort out the ins and outs of copyright in the digital age.
That may be true but this case the ins and outs of copyright are not hard to figure out at all. Whoever re-edited the video knew very clearly that they were taking someone else's work & using it without their permission as they deliberately trimmed off the copyright info.
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Old April 10th, 2011, 09:35 AM   #12
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Exactly! Copyright all boils down to, if someone other than yourself created a certain work and you wish to either perform it, distribute it, use it for some purpose of your own, or incorporate it into a work such as a film or video that you are yourself creating, you need their permission and if they wish to charge you a fee in exchange for that permission, you are obligated to pay it. While different countries may vary in the exact wording or differ in the details as to who owns what when and for how long, that pretty much covers the essence of all of them.
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Old April 10th, 2011, 01:34 PM   #13
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Absolutely brilliant synopsis of copyright, Steve!

While as you know I contend there are grey areas when media is "shifted", that's as good a description of the basic concept as you'll EVER get.

Probably would simplify things if that basic concept were put out rather than all the mumbo jumbo!
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Old April 10th, 2011, 04:19 PM   #14
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
Absolutely brilliant synopsis of copyright, Steve!

While as you know I contend there are grey areas when media is "shifted", that's as good a description of the basic concept as you'll EVER get.
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Last edited by Steve House; April 11th, 2011 at 09:56 AM.
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Old April 11th, 2011, 08:57 PM   #15
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Re: my work re-edited without permission

Steve,

I wish I'd seen this explanation three days ago...it would have saved me probably 15 emails! Well done, Sir, well done!

That is PRECISELY the message I have beenn trying to impart to these...dare I say???....MORONS for days. Although we have reached a point where the apologies have been made, the accomodations worked out so that they can use portions of this work without messing with my original clients rights and the value of the original piece, I'm astonished that getting this relatively simple concept across was so mind-numbingly difficult!

I appreciate all of the insightful comments and suggestions made. I have decided that it's time that I develop a more comprehensive "strategy" for dealing with this sort of thing, God Forbid, should it ever happen to me again.
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