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Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?

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Jay Huubs
Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 17, 2010 at 6:11:45 pm

I know any rights or agreements are usually stipulated through a contract, but what happens when there wasn't a contract? Long story short, I have shot footage and have produced (for a fee) copies of sporting events that they hired me to do. Either they just pay me to shoot the event, and then decide if they want to pay me to edit it. Most of the time, they just pay me to shoot it. Now they want me to provide footage to a local TV station so they can make a commercial. Do they own the footage? Do they only own the footage they paid me to edit? Yes, I should have had a contract, but in the beginning it was just friends helping out friends. I have no problem letting them use footage for a commerical, since it will help them make more money, hence they can pay me more money. I currently charge basement rates already. $250.00 to shoot the event, and another $250.00 to edit. I don't want to upset the client, but my time is money. And a favor done last year doesn't mean you are always due a favor.

"Life's a pitch and then you buy."
-Billy Mays


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Stephen Schott
Re: Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 17, 2010 at 8:40:56 pm

You are asking for legal advice here, and no one really wants to post on stuff like this, so I'll give you my PERSONAL advice. You've charged them $250 to shoot the event, regardless of editing... Why did you charge them if not because it was their video? A producer hires me to go out and shoot video of something... If I didn't charge them, then I'd say it's my video and if he wants to use it, it will cost $... But if someone pays me to shoot something, why would he pay me unless it was his video? I guess my question is, if you charged him $250 to shoot the video, why wouldn't it be his? And if all he's asking for is the shoot tapes, just hand them over... no time really involved. I guess you could charge him for shipping...
If I could read between the lines, I think you are regretting the low "cut-rate" cost because it was under the assumption you'd get all the video work? Now your not? Or are you on some other format, and you'll have to transfer the video from a hard-drive to something else and that's the time your concerned about? Not sure we're getting the whole situation, but with what we are being told, there is my PERSONAL advice.

Stephen Schott
12Basket Productions

"When you've got family, everything else is extra"


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Jay Huubs
Re: Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 17, 2010 at 11:02:14 pm

Thanks for the advice. I wasn't looking for the "legal" definition, more of "what would you do". I guess my issue is that they are always coming back asking me to this or do that on footage already shot. I guess the easy way around is to give them copies of the tapes after the shoot and then if they would like me to do something else, I can charge them. My other concern is that if they choose to use my footage in a commercial produced by another editor, who gets pinched if he uses music he doesn't have the rights too? I asume it would be him since he produced the piece in question. My other thought are since my prices are so low, they only get the finished product. Then if they want to rip stuff out of that video, they are welcome too. The real answer is to always put this down in a contract. Thanks for the thoughts.

"Life's a pitch and then you buy."
-Billy Mays


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Stephen Schott
Re: Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 18, 2010 at 12:06:31 am

Yep, if they payed you for shooting, there's a simple argument that they own it. And if they get really good production value for it, then you get those bragging rights, even if you didn't edit it. Your a shooter then, not an editor. Separate world, separate costs. But your "cut rate" costs may be something to re-consider if you feel your not being compensated properly for video to be edited/used by others. After a shoot, you have to feel compensated enough to be able to let go of the video to be done with by whomever. Personally, if I'm hired to shoot, I shoot the video and when I'm done I hand the video over, be it on disc, disk or tape. If they want me to edit then we go from there. But it is priced to make a living (house payment, insurance, retirement, kids college, etc.), keep the business going (it's own bills, payments, etc. etc.) , and pay for the maintenance of the camera WHEN (not if) something goes wrong with the camera. If they want a package deal with shooting, editing, compositing, and all that, then costs are different.

I would guess that if your friend is a businessman, he'll understand what business costs are. Contracts are a legal, fancy way of communicating. If he doesn't understand all the things that goes along with our business, explain. THEN get a contract.

Stephen Schott
12Basket Productions

"When you've got family, everything else is extra"


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John Grote, Jr.
Re: Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 19, 2010 at 7:35:45 pm

Forgive me but, "And a favor done last year doesn't mean you are always due a favor." Unless I misread your post (and I've seen others that have posted similar) you got paid to shoot something. If you didn't decide to charge for tape stock or in your case more for your time, that is your fault. I feel if I am a pay client and commission you to do something, ie., shoot an event, than I own the footage and have I have the right to do what I may with that footage. Now as a client, I should give you the opportunity to edit something together and pay you, but if a station is doing it, it means that they are doing it for free and they are charging to run it.

"Hence they can pay me more money", what? You got paid something. That was your fault if you didn't get more. Charge them more and one of two things are going to happen; either they find someone who will shoot it cheaper (and usually do a worse job) or they come back to you and realize the value and talent they were getting.

I don't want to upset the client. I work for people that are the same way. This is crazy, everything in the world has gone up, gas, milk, and hell even toilet paper. I don't get clients or people in general that think you should be charging the same rates from 10 years ago, let alone 2 years ago. We shouldn't work for slave wages to make a living. Nor should we be brow beat because the client wants to make the tenth change on something they approved last week, for free.

J. Grote, Jr.


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Fernando Mol
Re: Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 19, 2010 at 8:39:25 pm

This will be what I'll do. I'll give them the footage, taking my lesson.

If the issue is hard to handle and the client is one that always come back to you, then don't fix money stuff on the late. Do it in advance... for the next time.

Of course, if your relationship with the client is nice and you really think you should charge an extra buck, then no harm to ask.

*Always share a link to your site and rate the posts. This is a free service for you and for us.


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Jay Huubs
Re: Who owns the rights to footage I shoot?
on May 20, 2010 at 8:22:13 pm

Thanks everyone for the great advice. That's the one great thing about this site, people are always willing to give some helpful advice. And you guys are right, once it's shot, it's shot. And once it's paid for, it's paid for. The details should be worked out before hand, not in hind-sight. Thanks again everyone.

"Life's a pitch and then you buy."
-Billy Mays


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