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


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Old April 18th, 2013, 06:51 PM   #1
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Trouble in Paradise

Question about footage rights.

====SPOILER ALERT=====
NO CONTRACT IN PLACE!!! kill me now... :*(

Shot a ton of footage for a documentary I'm making. The Wanna-be Producer lady who thinks $1750 from kickstarter is a wildly successful fundraising campaign, and posting shitty pics to Instagram counts as "producing" is starting to become a bit of a problem. For 80% of production she was in law school and "so sorry I can't do more!" so we basically ignored her and did everything necessary to create the film. Now that she realizes we are kicking ass and making a great film, combined with her suddenly open schedule, she is on track to sour this already crappy relationship. Might have to part ways with this crazy lady. Only problem is her husband is one of the main characters, and she's even in some of the footage. If things go south, we think she might sue for the footage.

So my question is this: Who owns the footage? The co-director and myself have shot 100% of everything.

Ideally I would like to resolve things with her, and complete this doc so I have it for my resume.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 07:22 PM   #2
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

The grossly simplified version - In the absence of a work for hire agreement the shooter owns the footage.

You will want to consult an attorney to find out how best to protect yourself.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 07:26 PM   #3
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Imo whoever paid for the footage to be shot, owns it. The shooter owns the intellectual rights, which looks like it's not going to count for much.

Has she just got her law degree and you look like being her first case?

If so, she won't want to lose it. Maybe discretely ask her husband for advice, then an attorney.

Cheers.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 07:30 PM   #4
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Thanks for the input. Definitely need to see a laywer - never done that before..any advice there?

We haven't been paid a dime, other than reimbursements for things we paid for (mostly lens rentals).
She hasn't gotten her BAR results and by the time she does, she'll be living in Italy :)
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Old April 18th, 2013, 07:31 PM   #5
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

What Chris Said.

Stanford U in Palo Alto (stanford.edu) has a great "laymans language" resource site for the part of Title 17 of the US Code that governs copyright issues.

Essentially, if nothing's written and signed to the contrary - the "creator" of any work is the default copyright holder.

That noted, remember that anyone can sue anyone for anything. So if things go south, even an iron clad written agreement becomes nothing more than evidence that can sway things your way in court - it literaly can't prevent someone from coming after you if they're determined to do so.

That's just how things work.

Good luck.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 07:36 PM   #6
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allan Black View Post
Imo whoever paid for the footage to be shot, owns it. The shooter owns the intellectual rights, which looks like it's not going to count for much.

Has she just got her law degree and you look like being her first case?

If so, she won't want to lose it. Maybe discretely ask her husband for advice, then an attorney.

Cheers.
In the US payment doesn't automatically transfer rights. Rights have to be transferred in a more formal way than a simple exchange of money.

It will be worth your time to see the lawyer sooner than later. Be sure to mention the part about her moving overseas. You will want any litigation to be based in the US. The laws here are more in your favor than in many other locales.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 07:42 PM   #7
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas OHara View Post
We haven't been paid a dime, other than reimbursements for things we paid for (mostly lens rentals).
She hasn't gotten her BAR results and by the time she does, she'll be living in Italy :)
In that case you own the footage, and what Bill said. Before you do anything, sit down and ask yourself, is this all worth it.
An attorney will cost maybe bigtime and the final result whichever way it goes, will probably sour the project.

Cheers.
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Old April 18th, 2013, 08:31 PM   #8
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Usual disclaimer - I am not a lawyer so anything I say on the subject is only my interpretation as a layperson.

As has been said, if there are no formal written documents then whoever shot it automatically holds the copyright. However, you may have a bigger problem to tackle, do you have performance releases from the people in the film? If not and even if it is determined that you own the copyright for the footage, you may have a really nice home movie if your PITA producer and her husband decide not to grant you permission to use them in your film.

In any case, as the OP now realizes, getting all the paperwork done up front and having agreements in place are one of the necessities of any serious project.
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Old April 19th, 2013, 06:19 PM   #9
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Sounds like you still have a lot of common ground - you both want to get the film out there. I'd suggest mediation. Get together with a neutral third party acceptable to both of you, identify what you both want, agree, write it down, and get on with it.
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Old April 19th, 2013, 09:51 PM   #10
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

What Garret said,, except I am a lawyer. That being said, this should not be considered legal advice in your particular situation, as there may be additional facts or issues that could alter any outcome.
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Old April 20th, 2013, 12:23 AM   #11
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

great advice all.
The meeting went well and I think I have identified what type of person we're dealing with. She most likely has a narcissistic personality disorder. Woohoo!

I think lawyering up and doing some mediation will work wonders. I appreciate the advice.
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Old April 21st, 2013, 01:00 AM   #12
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Re: Trouble in Paradise

Lawyering up will do nothing other than waste cash. (In your situation.)

IMHO, negotiate. If that fails, wait for her to make the next move.
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