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Taking Care of Business
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Old January 4th, 2007, 08:24 AM   #1
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Who owns copyright?

I have an difficult question. I'm currectly in the process of putting my cameraman showreel together, in the hope that it will help me get more work in the future.

The current company i do a lot of work for have denied me permission to use footage that i have filmed for the company, in my showreel.

Which i feel is quite unfair. do they really have copyright?

This of course means to make showreel that demonstrates my camerawork, im going to have to film things in my own time- Im going to have to stage interviews and documentary footage, just for my showreel.

Which feels like lying really! i should be able to show actual interviews and documentary footage that i've filmed!

Would anyone be able to clue me up of the legalities of copyright?
(i should add that im in the uk, in case laws are different in different countries)
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Old January 4th, 2007, 08:29 AM   #2
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Moved from Open DV Discussion to Taking Care of Business.

Yes if they paid you to shoot their video, they own the copyright. Speaking in very general terms, copyright typically belongs to the party who paid to have the video made. You're asking a question which is frequently brought up here, primarily from a US perspective but I know there are some UK-specific discussions here as well.

Roll up your sleeves, pour a fresh cup and start reading through the forum.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 08:51 AM   #3
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Copyright is a complex business. If they employ you to shoot a production they will hold the copyright to your work as a cameraman on that production. Some people have clauses in their contracts so that they can use material in their showreels, however, very often camera people don't have contracts.

On any paid job the full copyright would have to belong to the producer, otherwise they couldn't sell it to broadcasters or distributors, so it makes sense. They also have to clear anything that might hold copyright in their production.

There's more on copyright here:

http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/digital.html
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Old January 4th, 2007, 09:10 AM   #4
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You have to talk to a lawyer, or in your case a barrister.

In the US copyrights do belong to employers, but in many, many circumstances in video and film production persons may be hired to video and film production who are not employees. Copyright of materials produced by what are called "idependent contractors" in the US is owned by the contractor--the creator of the work--UNLESS the contractor is working under a written "work for hire" agreement executed before or at the same time as the work is created. The fact that one was paid for the work really hasn't got much to do with it.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 09:25 AM   #5
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as has been said copyright is complicated and its best to speak with a lawyer who is knowledgable in the area.

On your other point about it being unfair. Yeah I hear that, but look at it this way. A demo tape is a demonstration of what you CAN do, not necessarily what you have done.

It's wonderful when the two are the same, but when they are not, as is the case here, look at it as an opportunity to create something that really shows your skills.

If most of your work is, for example, talking heads and industrial footage but you have always wanted to produce a video on Sailing, showing beauty shots on the open water, etc... take this opportunity to do that. yes it will take your "free time" but who better to invest that time in than yourself.

just a few thoughts.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 02:17 PM   #6
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There is one more practical aspect of all this - to truly prevent someone from showing the footage, there would have to be an injunction from a judge saying they could not use the footage. In other words, they would have to sue them and then win what is refered to as a non-legal remedy (ie- non money).

Generally speaking in civil cases, plaintiffs and judges seek always to first get/give money awards, not injunctions (this is assuming that the defendant has lost the case and that there are some sort of damages).

As a practical matter, it would seem hard to prove that you using the footage would cause any monetary damages. It's not impossible though - if the footage was for a comerical or a show that has not aired, or showed a trade secret, or some other manufacting secret, then there might very well be damages. Without knowing more, I can't tell you for certain. BUT usually a plaintiff must be able to show monetary damages to win. If not, an injunction could be given, but like I said, they are not favored.

Remember too, the burden of proof is always on the plaintiff (you'd be the defendant if they sued you).

Remember too that contract law is different from almost all other forms of law - generally speaking, as long as the contract's terms do not call for something illegal (like murder), then the contract's terms bind.

Where there's nothing said in the contract, or the contract is vague on some point, you will always have wriggle room to make your argument (at least here in the US) in front of the judge.

My advice - Call around for an attorney and tell them your situation - you might get someone to give you a break as hope is not yet lost and you seem to have a simpathetic case...

And yes, I am an attorney (Michigan). Good luck!
john
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Old January 4th, 2007, 02:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Ford
....

The current company i do a lot of work for have denied me permission to use footage that i have filmed for the company, in my showreel.

Which i feel is quite unfair. do they really have copyright?

...
Aside from the legalities or whether you might get away with using it without permission, there's a purely pragmatic side to this as well. You said you "do a lot of work" for this company. If you want to continue working with them, it might well be in your best interest to go along with their wishes regardless of whether they are right or reasonable or fair about your usage. The loss of a steady client might be more costly than just self-financing fresh material for your reel.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 03:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Steve House
You said you "do a lot of work" for this company. If you want to continue working with them, it might well be in your best interest to go along with their wishes

Great point. It's all a balancing act. If you do keep doing business them however, I would advise you to specifically get permission to use any new footage for your reel.

If they still won't accommodate you, depending on how much biz they send your way, you might very well say, "The heck with this."

john
evilgeniusentertainment.com
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Old January 4th, 2007, 03:26 PM   #9
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Peter,

It's been a slow day and I did some searching on this.

Take a look at item 5 at http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/co..._copyright_law

It suggests that the right to use footage may depend on the nature of the employer-employee relationship in the UK as it does in the US.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 04:54 PM   #10
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I feel that in this case it's more of work produced as part of employment. The only copyright that the camera operator might hold is on the framing, which is only part of the "work" - the chances are that other rights are involved in the image that the production company will most likely hold.

If you were the writer, composer, you would've created a stand alone work in its own right, so that the production company would have to have the copyright assigned to them in a contract.

Your best hope is to try an persuade the company to let you use some material. However, they might have their own reasons like client confidentially which is part of their contract with the client, so they're not in a position to allow you to use it.
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Old January 4th, 2007, 07:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Ford
The current company i do a lot of work for have denied me permission to use footage that i have filmed for the company, in my showreel.
Did they give you their reasons for not allowing you to use the footage??

Depending on your relationship with the company - you might be able to broker a deal that could allow you some limited accessibility to the footage for limited use - as in a portfolio..

One other thing you might want to check was any agreements/disclosures you signed at the time you became employed.

Just my two cents,
-Michael
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Old January 5th, 2007, 05:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale
I feel that in this case it's more of work produced as part of employment. The only copyright that the camera operator might hold is on the framing, which is only part of the "work" - the chances are that other rights are involved in the image that the production company will most likely hold.

If you were the writer, composer, you would've created a stand alone work in its own right, so that the production company would have to have the copyright assigned to them in a contract.

...
Good point. Copyright is held by the creator of the work unless it's work for hire. So there would be a distinction between someone who is a camera operator, essentially a technician operating equipment under supervision, and the director of photography, the creative person who actually structures the image composition and lighting and by so doing 'creates' the picture. Of course, that's not to say Peter isn't wearing both hats.
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Old January 5th, 2007, 06:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
Good point. Copyright is held by the creator of the work unless it's work for hire. So there would be a distinction between someone who is a camera operator, essentially a technician operating equipment under supervision, and the director of photography, the creative person who actually structures the image composition and lighting and by so doing 'creates' the picture. Of course, that's not to say Peter isn't wearing both hats.
This issue has come up when people haven't been paid and it seems to be the case that only the camera operator would hold some claim to copyright under these circumstances because of the framing and composition of the image.

Other people can be involved like performers and the production's director, although these will usually have signed an agreement with the production company or may even be an employee of the company. Companies are often lax in having contracts with camera people - I usually only have any to sign when I'm working on dramas.

Best thing with copyright law is to ask an entertainment lawyer - it's a complex area.
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