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Old July 7th, 2011, 11:20 AM   #1
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Who owns the footage copyright?

I searched for this but there seems to be a lot of conflicting information. In a situation where a freelance videographer (with a sole proprietorship) was hired for an event by a production company, which in turn has been hired by a company or organization to record an event, who owns the copyright to the footage? Note that the freelance videographer is not an employee of the production company, he has his own business under his sole name, and he's being sub-contracted by the other production company for a single event. For what I read so far, if I were an employee of the production company, then the copyright would belong to them, but if my business (which is just me basically) was hired by that company to video record an event, would they hold the copyright to that footage, or would I hold it?
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:04 PM   #2
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

Typically the "creator" owns the copyright... whether or what you can DO with it is an entirely different discussion, as you've already started in another thread...
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:10 PM   #3
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

I know, I just wanted to separate the theory of the whole thing from my particular present problem.

The meaning of my question was, if you shoot the footage, regardless of who hired you to shoot it, and you're not working as an employee for that company, can you do whatever you want with it? Can you use it to promote your business.

This makes me think of another question. Let's suppose you shoot a wedding, but the couple is not willing to sign the release to let you use the footage on your website, do you have to abide to that? Even though you shot the footage, can they prevent you from using it to promote your business?
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Old July 7th, 2011, 05:47 PM   #4
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

Do you have a signed release from each of the participants in the video you are posting?

I record oral histories. I have been taught that if I do not obtain a signed release from the person/persons I am recording, I may be subject to a lawsuit if I publish/present the results without their permission.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 07:53 PM   #5
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

If someone hires you, they usually own the footage. It depends on the agreement you have. As far as using footage, in general, I make sure to get releases to everything I shoot and when I create a work for hire, I make sure that my deal memo gives me permission to use selected footage in my reel, or I ask specific permission of the rights holder if I may use the footage. In the end, one should be respectful and polite, thus, I don't use footage for which there is an expectation of privacy (like at a private event, for example a wedding ceremony, which does not take place in a public place in most cases). And in the end, respect of people's privacy is a primary directive. A little prevention now can be worth a pound of cure down the road. If you want to read a good discussion of the various legal issues filmmakers need to know about, check out the wonderful book by Thomas A. Crowell titled The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers, Second Edition: A Legal Toolkit for Independent Producers
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Old July 7th, 2011, 07:57 PM   #6
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

If you don't use footage from wedding ceremonies you record, then how do you promote to that particular public? Engaged couples planning their wedding expect to see video samples of your work.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 09:34 PM   #7
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

You'd be wise to get permission from those wedding couples, before putting them up on a website, no matter who shot the video.

The questions you're asking are all things that should be agreed upon in advance, put in writing, and everyone involved be given a copy. You don't have to read very long on this board to come across the "what do I do now" threads where the answer is, "hire a lawyer." A lot of messy and expensive problems can be prevented by a brief contract of even a letter of engagement that spells out the terms and scope of work to be performed.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 09:05 AM   #8
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Tamés View Post
If someone hires you, they usually own the footage. It depends on the agreement you have.
That is not even remotely true. Under US (and most other) copyright law, the baseline ownership of the footage, hence copyright, on a copyrightable work goes to the creator of the work. If he is a bona fide employee, then the creator for legal purposes is the employer. But an independent vendor producing a work for his client in exchange for a professional fee IS NOT an employee of the client. (See IRS guidlines for who is and who isn't an 'employee' under the law.) The fact you were contracted to produce the work in exhange for a fee also DOES NOT make it a work-for-hire, unless you choose to make it so by using those exact words in your contract (and the contract must be finalized before work commences). If the contract does not use those words and you're not a regular employee acting within the scope of your regularly assigned duties, there are a few other specific cases where it becomes a work-for-hire spelled out in the copyright statutes, but wedding and event videos are not among them. For the copyright to pass to the client, there must be a writing that explicitly transfers the copyright - it can't be done verbally or by implication or under the guise of policy or common practice, it must be an explicit written transfer of ownership. You might choose to do so as part of your business practices, perhaps you see it as a competitive advantage to do so, but "usually owns the footage" is certainly not the case.

Our OP is in an interesting situation. He was hired on the basis of his time to shoot footage. He's not creating a finished copyrightable work but is acting more like a technician, akin to a camera operator or TV station news-crew cameraman. It could be held that he was creating a work-for-hire and the copyright goes to the production company that hired him. If that's the case, his hands are tied legally and he can't do anything on his own with the footage. A court would have to rule on that I suppose. They could hold that he returns the portion of his fee that he has been paid and gets to keep the footage and do with it as he wishes or the production company pays the rest of the agreed fee and gets to use the footage it has paid for.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 09:07 AM   #9
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

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Originally Posted by Sebastian Alvarez View Post
If you don't use footage from wedding ceremonies you record, then how do you promote to that particular public? Engaged couples planning their wedding expect to see video samples of your work.
Your need to use it to further your business does not create the right to use it. You still have to make sure all your legal ducks are in line. All those pesky permissions, releases, contracts, and licenses are the basic price of admission you have to pay in order to enter into the game.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 09:22 AM   #10
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
Your need to use it to further your business does not create the right to use it. You still have to make sure all your legal ducks are in line. All those pesky permissions, releases, contracts, and licenses are the basic price of admission you have to pay in order to enter into the game.
Oh, that's very clear, I do get signed releases for the weddings I do, I was wondering how you did it because you wrote: "I don't use footage for which there is an expectation of privacy (like at a private event, for example a wedding ceremony, which does not take place in a public place in most cases)".

So what I couldn't understand was how do you promote that you do weddings if you don't show your wedding footage. Of course I understand the privacy thing, that's why I wouldn't just hand out copies of my wedding videos to prospective customers, at best I would take it to their house, show parts of it to them and then take it back with me.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 09:26 AM   #11
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

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Originally Posted by Sebastian Alvarez View Post
Oh, that's very clear, I do get signed releases for the weddings I do, I was wondering how you did it because you wrote: "I don't use footage for which there is an expectation of privacy (like at a private event, for example a wedding ceremony, which does not take place in a public place in most cases)".

So what I couldn't understand was how do you promote that you do weddings if you don't show your wedding footage. Of course I understand the privacy thing, that's why I wouldn't just hand out copies of my wedding videos to prospective customers, at best I would take it to their house, show parts of it to them and then take it back with me.
LOL I didn't write that and don't do weddings so I can't answer your question

FYI, the fact you're not handing out the videos does not mean you are free of responsibility regarding privacy issues. Whenever you show an image of someone to a third party, no matter how you go about it, you have to take the ose issues into account. All your method does is make it a little more difficult to be caught at it.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 09:32 AM   #12
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

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Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
LOL I didn't write that and don't do weddings so I can't answer your question

FYI, the fact you're not handing out the videos does not mean you are free of responsibility regarding privacy issues. Whenever you show an image of someone to a third party, no matter how you go about it, you have to take the ose issues into account. All your method does is make it a little more difficult to be caught at it.
Sorry, I got the posts messed up.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 02:19 PM   #13
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
[...] an independent vendor producing a work for his client in exchange for a professional fee IS NOT an employee of the client. (See IRS guidlines for who is and who isn't an 'employee' under the law.) The fact you were contracted to produce the work in exhange for a fee also DOES NOT make it a work-for-hire, unless you choose to make it so by using those exact words in your contract [...] .
That's exactly why I said it depends on the agreement you have with the person hiring you. As someone who hires freelancers, I always make sure that there is a work-for-hire clause in the deal memo, just to avoid the fuzzy definition of whether someone is an independent contractor or employee. I'm not a lawyer, but I've observed many situations in which someone assumed they were working as an independent contractor but in the end failed to qualify, since there are many things you can do that disqualifies you as an independent contractor. At the end of the day, rather than leave this issue implicit, it should be spelled out in an agreement. Making assumptions and the law are a bad combination.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 04:45 PM   #14
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Re: Who owns the footage copyright?

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Originally Posted by David Tamés View Post
That's exactly why I said it depends on the agreement you have with the person hiring you. As someone who hires freelancers, I always make sure that there is a work-for-hire clause in the deal memo, just to avoid the fuzzy definition of whether someone is an independent contractor or employee. I'm not a lawyer, but I've observed many situations in which someone assumed they were working as an independent contractor but in the end failed to qualify, since there are many things you can do that disqualifies you as an independent contractor. At the end of the day, rather than leave this issue implicit, it should be spelled out in an agreement. Making assumptions and the law are a bad combination.
100% agree with that. Sounds like you're a production compnay hiring freelance crew and if your normal deal memo with them spells out that you are hiring them to make a work-for-hire, that's great. But your original post sort of implied that work-for-hire was the default setting for videographers hired directly by the primary client to produce a program documenting a wedding or some other event and it's not - was just pointing that out. In fact, for the typical freelance video producer hired to make a video documenting a wedding or corporate event, NOT a work for hire is the default unless there's a written contract that says otherwise. In the case of freelancers that you are hiring to work on productions you have been hired to produce, they are making a work for hire for you but you are NOT making a work for hire for your client (unless your contract makes it so).
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