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Questions about Corporate Safety Videos

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Paul CareyQuestions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 12, 2010 at 8:08:39 pm

I am going to be starting production on 3 different safety videos for a very large national corporation and they wanted me to give them a rate for purchasing all rights to the footage and after effects editing work. They have over 20 facilities nationally and I have no idea what to do in this situation. Do I legally copyright all my work with this project (the scrip, editing, music and footage) and then sell them the copyright? Any info would be greatly appreciated.


Thanks,
Media Man


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Noah KadnerRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 3:12:52 am

I would just include that into the overall rate- don't bother with the copyright they'll do that and it just wastes money and time. You don't really 'sell' a copyright anyways. Legally it just mucks things up if the intention is that they have it.

Noah

Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 13, 2010 at 5:00:41 pm

I think it is great that for once somebody here is getting it figured out BEFORE the project starts, bravo. You are already steps ahead of some folks.

The unvoiced concerns I'm reading between the lines of your post are 1: if you give them your proprietary files like the AE project files, you have given them all they need to give the future editing work to someone else and never use you again for updates or other follow-on work.

Why would they want that? I can think of several reasons, some innocent, some not. They want maximum control of the product, and they want to make it proprietary to them so it can't be used by someone else against them or used without paying them back for their investment. or, they have a lot of branches, and maybe they anticipate needing to make a lot of individual tweaks to the programs over time to keep them relevant, and their math works out that using your work as an initial template, then doing updates/changes in-house is the biggest money-saver. Maybe they suspect you are a flake, or at least, possibly going to go out of business at some point, and owning the elements insures them of continuity and the ability to recover the project and continue without you if you go bust. That's just being prudent. Or maybe they are rat bastards and want to use total ownership of the elements as leverage to get you to lowball all the follow-on work they might need, under threat of giving the work to someone else who is cheaper and will take credit for your creativity.


How do you fight all of that? You can't, not all of it. Some of it, you can counter by giving the absolute best service at reasonable but not charitable rates. Some can be countered by extremely unfriendly and distrustful-sounding contractual language that doesn't bode well for long-term relationships. You can't do much if the client is going to act dishonorably, except to be rigid in the billing discipline and not caving to grinding. You budget the work as if it will be your first and last project with them, if that's what you anticipate from the relationship. Then you hope for the best in terms of getting future business out of them. The one thing you must never do is cave to the old saw: "If you cut us a break on the first one, we'll give you all our future business to make up the difference, and more". That line has never been true, and is a blatant give-away of a grinder to avoid.



Unspoken question # 2: that you want to get paid the *right* amount for the work you're going to do, and you're not sure how much use or profit the client is going to make of your work over the long haul. Should you treat the videos like an investment in the stock market and hope to get a steady stream of residuals out of it? Or just name a flat rate and live with what happens? I would say the latter, because this is not episodic broadcast TV series stuff; this is a safety video. I know the guys who created "Forklift Driver Klaus" sure wish they had a piece of every youtube download of that magnificent gem. It has broken the boundaries of safety videos and gone on to mainstream appeal outside of the initial training usage.

But something like "Klaus" is an outlier; a freak occurrence. Most safety videos are not all that long-lived, and don't have potential to be re-purposed for other profit generation... some of their info will become dated, as will the clothes and other stylistic details and things like logos and corporate identities. Worst case, after you spent a year making these, they may wind up with a shelf life of just months, due to a corporate merger you had no control over. And really, what's it to you if you got fairly paid for the making of it, then your client makes money off of it? The client is entitled to make money, after all. You WANT them to make money, then they will hire you again, and give you some more of it, right? :-)

Instead of trying to milk the project for residuals, use the project as your calling card and portfolio example of what you can do for them and for others, and have languge in the contract or deal memo that says you will always have the right to show this work to others the way you made it, and to take credit for it, though you will not exhibit it for profit.


I did a little video on safety procedures training of medical and building staff who work around hospital helipads. It "took off" on the net, far outside of the initial distribution, and I'm told it is now seen and used nation-wide and world-wide, outside of Illinois. That was not our original intent, and in the organization I work for, I don't get any profit participation from client's work anyhow, but if it keeps another person from getting hurt anywhere on the pads, it's more important to me than getting some kind of residual cash for it. If I get the credit for the script and edit, that's more than enough. Because the writing and editing ability is what I sell to the next client, and the one after that, etc. and that ability is not something anyone can steal from you. Commodities can be bought and stolen; talent cannot. Market the talent and not the product.


My bottom line opinion: Deal memo or contract: they can have everything for ten years, including the music you made, the project files, EDL and logs, after which the rights return to you. Any stock or music or sfx that were purchased by third parties is not your concern and maintaining the rights to those elements is their problem. You will always be credited for the initial script, direction, videography, graphic design and editing, and you will always retain the right to show key elements of the work in the context of portfolio sites and sample reels, but you will not sell or exhibit the work for profit. At the end of ten years they can renew their ownership for an additional ten years for a fee no greater than the original fee.

Now, just figure your day rates for the hours, add a markup for a profit and a cushion, and give them the number that will make you and them happy. If you want their future business to update the work, you can pitch them a discounted rate for some of the follow-on work, under the assumption that most of the elements already are done, you are already up to speed on their needs, and you're only making small tweaks. This is in fact true, in that you'll save time and thus charge fewer hours than you did when working from scratch.

I hope I got to some of your concerns, voiced and not.


"I'd have written a shorter letter, if I had more time"- Pascal


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Noah KadnerRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 5:25:28 am

That's easy to say and all but if I were a corporate client I would hang up on a production company expecting to get their footage back after ten years. And I'd go find one that understood the concept of buyout/work for hire. Trust me there are thousands of them out there...

Noah

Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 7:33:20 am

Well, I kind of ran the gamut there. Certainly, if he wants to, he can just do a complete buy-out and the issue is for how much; if he rakes them too high, they either go somewhere else or just never go to him again after they get his stuff. If he lowballs it, he's leaving money on the table and they will probably rip him off over and over.

I picked ten years because in most cases nobody will care about any of it by then, but it will be nice for him to get his originals back in his ownership free and clear, if only for portfolio and writing credit.

I think a lot of people in this bad economy are ready to bow down and do anything for an account, even when it is not a smart thing to do. I pray every night the Lord doesn't test me with choices of my conscience and pride versus feeding the family, because I know who wins that one. But often, it doesn't *quite* some to that, but instead to something where you DO have a certain amount of leeway to roll your own way. That's the fairer test: when you *can* walk away, will you? If the deal is not fair enough? We can all *say* what we'd do, but you really don't know, until it comes up in real life. Not for sure.


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Nick GriffinRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 1:36:57 pm

My partner and I wrote and produced a six part / 75 minute safety video for an industry trade association in 2008, so I have some fairly recent experience with this. When the client brought up the fact that he wanted the raw footage from our shoots as B-roll for future projects, I asked why he would want to raise the price on a project which was already stretched.

When asked what I meant, I explained very simply that getting full rights and unlimited use, ie- turning over the tapes, typically involved a 25 to 30% premium because it was in essence telling the production company "we're planning on working with someone else and want to use your materials instead of having you work on this next project." Hence the premium. Our client accepted this logic and the topic was never brought up again.

Earlier a 10% premium was mentioned. I think that's low, at least in our market and in my experience. But the point remains the same. If you want to take my stuff somewhere else to save a few bucks (yes, it's always about the money) then you're going to have to pay me for the privilege.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:15:49 pm

Nick, would YOU have turned over your project files for an additional amount? Or kept them as your proprietary "secret sauce"?


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Nick GriffinRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 14, 2010 at 10:20:18 pm

Mark-
I really wouldn't have had much choice once they'd agreed to pony up the additional money, would I?

The un-stated aspect of this interaction so far is that they were before and after this particular issue came up, satisfied and giving us numerous other projects -- some of which can use the B-roll we have sitting here on our shelves. Had they been unhappy and actually looking to change this whole thing could have easily gone another way.


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Noah KadnerRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 15, 2010 at 3:53:02 am

Yeah but what's proprietary about project files- either you give them over or you don't and they hire someone who will. Anybody in corporate video who thinks their projects are being done in an amazing unique and proprietary way should probably not be editing corporate videos.

I mean what's likely to happen- the client takes the project files and 'reverse-engineers' them to somehow cut out any corporate video services in the future? Or they somehow manage to open them up, take one look and realize they should leave the work to a pro- which means you again if you were cool about it. Or which means someone else if you put up a stink about it...

Noah

Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.


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Paul CareyRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 15, 2010 at 5:39:45 pm

Thank you very much for your reply, I found it very informative and helpful. They have 22 facilities nationally and they do want to use them in all of them. I have a sit-down meeting with the national safety director and the saftey director at a local facility tomorow night. I am going request a specific budget for the project in order to know how profesional they want to go. As in any production you can do something cheap, which will look cheap. Or have a polished "holywood" production which will be expensive as hell. They may very well have a $100,000 budget or a $25,000 budget and that will determine the quality of everything, from actors, music, After effects editing etc.
Back to my original question. You don't think I need to hire a copyright attorney and have a nice, legal document for them to have that states all my work is original and the stock footage rights which I purchased for the project are included, giving them all rights?


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Mark SuszkoRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 15, 2010 at 6:43:17 pm

I would say, if you're okay with handing everything over, make them pay up front for the stock image and music elements and make rights renewal on that their problem, not yours. You spec what you need and then have them buy it for you. I say that because I can envision a situation where you wind up on the hook for rights renewals on a project that's now out of your hands.

No, I don't think you need to "lawyer-up" for this, just make a well-thought-out document that protects your rights and spells out ownership of all the elements and payment terms and penalties for lack of same... and have the guy that signs the checks be the guy that signs the memo. Sometimes a lower-level minion signs off on deals then later says they don't count/ aren't enforceable, because the head honcho didn't approve or sign off on it. I'm probably worrying over nothing, but I like to think thru all the potential pitfalls anyway.


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Paul CareyRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 15, 2010 at 7:36:06 pm

I am more cautious than anything with this project. I have been actively involved with production on all levels for over 5 years. I have done over 70 corporate videos but never for a fortune 500 company. I dont want to screw it up in any way. They are going to use these videos in all 22 facilities and have a very well staffed legal department. I guess I am a bit intimidated by the gravity of this company. I am very able to deliver, I just wasn't prepared to work for such a large company. By the way these are safety videos that they are required to make because of another, larger, fortune 500 company that they want to start a joint venture on a new line of products. I will know more about what they want by tomorow night. I will post more info after that.

Thanks


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Nick GriffinRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 15, 2010 at 8:35:15 pm

This certainly wasn't researched exhaustively, but WAS blessed by the association's legal counsel. This was put at the end of each video AND on the back cover of the DVD case.

PLEASE NOTE:

This presentation, and/or the information contained herein, is not intended to replace, or be used in place of, the Original Equipment Manufacturers or other vendor’s operating or safety instructions relating to methods, procedures, machinery, equipment or other products.

This presentation is presented for educational purposes and is therefore supplementary and not to be considered exhaustive. (Client), its officers, directors and employees as well as the programs’ authors, producers and video crews hereby disclaim any and all responsibility for any loss, injury, damage or expense directly or indirectly arising out of or relating to use or reliance on this presentation or the material contained in this presentation.

Copyright © 2008 by (Client) - All Rights Reserved

This program may not be copied in whole or in part
without the written consent of (Client).

Hope this helps, but if you're nervous present this or something like it to the client's legal department and put it onto them to come up with the safest language. THAT SAID... a disclaimer doesn't guarantee that you won't be brought into a lawsuit should something happen. Better than nothing, but not ironclad protection. But the fact of the matter is should there ever be legal action you are small potatoes and the really deep pockets are obviously those of the Fortune 500 company.


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grinner hesterRe: Questions about Corporate Safety Videos
by on Dec 19, 2010 at 4:12:21 pm

naaa. You just give em a price for the videos and give em what they want/paid for.



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