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by on Oct 31, 2006 at 8:20:53 pm

Does anyone know about the Motion Graphic rights/ Designer Rights?
Example: I work inside a Design Company at the moment doing Motion Graphic Design. I want to built a REEL with some of those materials + my experimental and other professional work that I have done in the past months.
CAN I do that, with no having problem publishing material from the actual design company I work at the moment?
Do we have any rights on the projects we do, even over all the contract rules with the company we do work?
Thank you all
Any link will be helpfull.

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by on Nov 1, 2006 at 4:10:14 am

I don't believe there are any laws granting explicit rights to someone working as an employee, especially if prohibited by company policy. It certainly never hurts to ask however.


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by on Nov 1, 2006 at 3:35:03 pm

I'll go a little further -- my understanding is that a work for hire confers NO rights to the creator.

My experience, though, is that most companies LOVE to see their stuff in reels. I've seen some get hurt if their company is NOT in your reel.

But yeah, always best to ask permission.


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by on Nov 1, 2006 at 3:48:34 pm

Tim, it's not unheard of that companies for one reason or another will go as far as suing the artist for "infringing" by showing the work without the company's permission. I think where you see this most is in advertising situations. But you also see this for example with Disney artists. Disney controls artistic product like South African diamond mines control their miner's output.

The companies have many reasons, some logical, some not so much. Whether we like that or not makes no differnce, what counts is what the initial deal covered, and whatever case law would support you if you chose to argue it in court.

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by on Nov 1, 2006 at 3:39:25 pm

Depends if you are work for hire, to some extent. Best policy is to get something in writing from the company that says, even if they own your work product, you retain the right to show watermarked samples for portfolio purposes. Some companies are exceptionally tight-fisted about retaining all rights and will not even allow such portfolio/sample uses in case it may be seen as diltuting their brand or infringing copyrights.

Also, if you suddenly bring up sample reels and portfolios, the natural question that arises with you employer is: "Why do you need samples, are you looking for another job?" So the best policy situation is that you establish this from the beginning of your employment, that you are allowed to keep and show samples of your work product to others, provided they are watermarked or otherwise rendered impossible to use for infringement purposes.

Something else you could do in this regard that is less tension-producing is to ask permission to enter samples of their stuff in various contests.

This gets you around a couple of the barriers; even if you have to pay the entry fees yourself, it might be worth it, because it permanently weds your name to that piece of work in a public way you can use for references later, no matter what changes at the company down the road.

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by on Nov 2, 2006 at 3:02:12 am

There are two companies in my market that recieved "cease and desist" letters from Disney's lawyers for having productions they legitimately created for Disney on their websites, and those are just the ones I know about.

Ya gotta ask.

Most folks are flattered. Some are not. They will be the ones that try to crawl up your tailpipe and wreak havok.


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by on Nov 2, 2006 at 12:46:16 pm

Adding Disney to your portfolio is playing with fire. I've seen them come down for even including the word Disney on your resume. Don't do it.

BTW, I used language that was way too vague before if I implied that you don't have to ask *every single time.* You absolutely do.

Some of this stuff is far outside the company's control, and some of it downright scary. An artist friend of mine tried to use some work he'd done in a reel. It involved adding some effects to the eyes of an actor, on a film he didn't mention, using only the actor's eyes, without naming the actor. A slick little before and after thing. For all you knew, it could have been his own eyes.

The producers said go for it, an appropriate use of your work without implying any endoresment by us at all. But when the actor's "people" got wind of it, they insisted that the sample either be removed or that the actor be paid his usual working rate plus a separate endorsement contract. Oh yeah, and they were going to sue him anyway because the breach had already occurred. My man talked his way out of it eventually, but it was hairy.

And not like it was Elizabeth Taylor or anybody famous for his eyes. He's actually kind of squinty. And shorter than you'd think, but that's almost always true.

Ask, ask and ask again. Most of the time there's no problem, companies are proud, etc....but you'll avoid the rest if you always ask.


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by on Nov 2, 2006 at 8:10:57 pm

The odds of getting sued for using your graphics/effects work on a sample reel are about the same as getting hit by an asteroid while typing. I've been using my Disney work on my reel for years. Hey...what's that sou (crash)....OW!

Just be smart. You made that work, it's a demo of what you can do. It's not like we're working for the CIA here. Last year a vendor for DIsney cable submitted Disney work at Promax/BDA - and won an award with it. Disney cable contractually forbids any submissions of your work done for them to any competition unless Disney itself submits it. The bosses at Disney were ticked, stopped hiring that company, but didn't sue. If they didn't sue for THAT, I can't imagine getting sued for using your work on a reel that you send out to feed your family.

Some reel advice:
If you put it on the web and have a web reel link that you send out and you're really concerned about getting sued, password protect the web page and provide that with your link/resume/email. The future client will be pleased that you can protect video content on the web.
DO embed the QT file in a web page rather than just linking to the .mov file. Many browsers will require that you load the entire file before it will let you play, and you don't want a potential client staring at a big blue Q for 3 minutes.
DON'T send hard copies to the employer you did the work for.
DON'T say things to your current employer like "Hey you SOB, I'm using all your work on my reel, and there's nothing you can do about it! Ever! You're helpless and puny!! HAHAHAHAHA".
DON'T follow that previous statement with "and your kids are all ugly and stupid, like you and your graphics knowledge!"

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by on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:50:14 pm

As an extra precaution, I would definetly watermark the samples with the correct copyright of who ever owns the content. Also, if you have signed non disclosure agreements that explicitly forbids distributing the content - then there you go.

Otherwise, it's very unlikely (though not impossible) that the content owners will go after you for sampling the work in your reel - just use common sense. For instance, if you just finished work on an effects shot for upcoming blockbuster release for next summer, it would be very foolish to distribute that work as part of you reel (and it's likely you have signed a NDA that explicitly forbids this as well.)

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by on Nov 3, 2006 at 5:18:44 pm

Apart from the prestige of working for a high-profile client, what your samples ostensibly show someone is that you have the skills to solve their problems, whatever those are. Chances are you are not going to get hired a lot to just keep re-making the exact same spot or look just with different client names. Some of that does go on, but that kind of slavish imitation work is a relatively small and lower-end sector of the field. It's not lasting or even very lucrative, more like churning out weekly used car lot spots. Your samples should show your specialization but should also underscore your versatility. In 3-d animation work, for example even if all you really do well is keyframe, it doesn't hurt to show you can model, texture, and rig and light as well. If you are a master of a particular technology, try to also show applications of that technology that are unexpected, and you stand less chance of getting pigeonholed as a one-trick pony.

So anyway if you want to show off a certain technique you applied to, say, the actor with the squinty eyes, referenced earlier, you could certainly re-create a similar example with a different person, not refer to the original at all, and apply the same solution on your own time, with some other person than that actor. When you build that example on your own time with your own tools, you own it fairly completely then, and can use that example however you want to. (Well, if there was no NDA regarding the technique. The Apple iPod FX guys are keeping very mum for likely that reason).

Look right here at the COW for a sort of example of this: the demo of making a glowing light trail using particles that *looks* like the effect used in the Apple ipod TV spots. It does not purport to *be* the same technique, but only an imitation of that particular "look", one possible method for achieving it.

Where this example is not so good is, it contains within it a very VERY short sample clip from the actual Apple ads, just to orient the viewer as to what it is we're trying to replicate. A stickler could raise a fuss about that, unlikely as it may be, but again that's the crux of the issue we started talking about. You want to avoid the chance for entanglement from the beginning.

You might have hassles using Apple's footage in your personal promo pieces, but if you completely re-create a technique on your own, that's easier to defend. But you don't want to imitate the original so slavishly they can sue for impersonating the product. Case law would not be on your side. Its a fine line to walk. But I think you're definitely safer making your own product mock-ups for demos than showing client work that's not 100 percent cleared in advance by the clients.

Sometimes, clients WANT you to use a lot of their stuff for promos; it's all part of a larger promo strategy to have as many people talking about a product like a show or commercial as possible, from whatever angle. But not all clients are that enlightened, nor do they all have the same agendas regarding publicity. Always, the best policy is to explore this issue with the client at the outset, and get it in writing.

When the pay for the gig is not the best, permission to use examples in private demo reels becomes a big bonus negotiating point, and the client often sees it as an easy free give-away from their standpoint in negotiations. Just be sure the person who gives you the permission is actually qualified to make that commitment on behalf of the company, or they can take it back later on a whim.

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