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Cinematographer's Legal Rights to Footage

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David Brunsman
Cinematographer's Legal Rights to Footage
on Jan 8, 2009 at 12:09:01 am

Any help that you can provide on my situation would be awesome. If you can please pass this e-mail to your Cinematographer friends, I'd really appreciate it.

Here is the situation:

I was working as the Cinematographer on a small start-up television show which airs on an LA network. I was hired freelance and was never an employee of the show - furthermore, I never filled out a W2 for the company and all checks paid were deposited into my company accounts. Due to my freelance arrangement, no contracts were signed by either party.

The producer of the show fired me in early December, and when they let me go, I asked if I could have access to the footage that I shot, which they agreed to. I purchased a hard-drive and dropped it off at the company and now they are refusing my ability to have access to the raw footage - claiming that the footage is property of the company.

It is my understanding, through a few of my Cinematographer friends, that the Cinematographer maintains rights to the raw footage as the "author" of the raw footage, unless a contract is signed sending copyright to the company and away from the cinematographer's rights. I have done a lot of research in Copyright and in Author law, and have not really been able to find much as it pertains to my case and I am looking for some legal referral that I can use to e-mail to this company in order to request my footage nicely (one more time) and in return, I will sign a copyright release form.

I only want to use the footage for PR for myself (reels, etc...) and I cannot use the footage from the television show because of the editing style of the show (fast cuts, strange effects which ruin the "shot").

Thank you for any help/advice that you may be able to offer.

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