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Who owns the video?

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Jason BunchWho owns the video?
by on Apr 9, 2010 at 6:47:59 am

Hi All,

Thank you in advance for your input as I'm sure you get a lot of similar questions on here. I have a legal questions I'm asking for a friend. She and I used to work at a carriage company (driving horses). It is a commission based job so if we don't have rides, we don't get paid. Sometimes when things were slow, she would use her personal camera to take pictures and videos of the horses pulling carriages. She also helped the owner create a website for the company where she agreed to allow use of these pictures and videos to promote the company.

There has since been a falling out between this employee and the owner (owner's at fault), and the owner owes this employee 10K from a personal loan. As you can see these two used to be on really good terms but the owner kinda.. went nuts. Anyway, the former employee is fed up with the owner's games and simply wants to take down the pictures and videos that she shot on her camera and posted on the site for the owner.

There was never any sort of contract signed. The owner is claiming that the videos belong to the company because they show the company's horses. IMO, they belong to the employee b/c she used her personal equipment and did this without any sort of pay. She simply agreed to let them be used on the company website.

They will soon be going to court in regards to the 10K loan, and my friend, the former employee, needs to know who actually owns this video and pictures in case that becomes a factor. Her stance is, if the owner will take the footage and pics down, there will be no questions asked about them. If the owner insists that she owns the them, my friend wants to be paid for her work.

Please let me know your thoughts on this. Thanks again everybody.


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walter biscardiRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 9, 2010 at 12:39:57 pm

Without a contract stating otherwise, in this instance I would say the ownership belongs to the camera operator. Their own equipment, shot without compensation, with no "Work for Hire" contract in place.


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Alan LloydRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 9, 2010 at 1:38:27 pm

I'd agree, Walter, though the unpaid 10K personal loan really puts this into lawyer territory.

Sad, but true.


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Ron LindeboomRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 9, 2010 at 1:44:35 pm

After reading this one, I have to agree with Walter's point of view: there was no contract, the employee did the work of her own initiative, she also used her own equipment to do it, and was not paid to either capture, edit, or compress the footage (or prepare the photos) for the web.

In these kinds of circumstances, which is based on the trade customs and traditions that are the purview of photographers, etc., the law sides with the photographer.

That's what I suspect is the case here.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom
Creativecow.net


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David Roth WeissRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 9, 2010 at 4:44:22 pm

[Jason Bunch] "the former employee, needs to know who actually owns this video and pictures in case that becomes a factor. Her stance is, if the owner will take the footage and pics down, there will be no questions asked about them."

This one is fairly simple Jason. Your friend simply needs to get the clock ticking formally and in writing with two different letters.

The first is a nice letter gently asking the former employer to remove the material from the website and asking for a reply within a week.

Then, if no action has been taken, or the employer refuses, your friend should then write a simple letter of demand formally requesting that the former employer immediately cease and desist using any and all of the photographic images and video material, which the letter should state are your friend's property the sole owner and holder of the copyright under the law. And, the letter should specify a firm date by which all materials must be pulled from the website, giving the former employer exactly (x) days from the date of the letter to comply.

Now, if the former employer fails to comply by the date specified, your friend has a case, and she can show that she asked respectfully, but was forced to escalate. The courts look for this type of thing -- and if the employer fails to comply to written warnings it shows willful disregard on their part, which could be grounds for punitive damages.

David Roth Weiss
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Scott CarnegieRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 9, 2010 at 7:20:34 pm

If no agreement is in place and the person is not an employee, then the creator of the work owns it, regardless of who's equipment was used to make the images. The creator is a person, not a peice of gear.

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Jason BunchRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 13, 2010 at 8:47:28 am

Well she was employed at the time, but did this without pay, and of her own accord. We were commission based and sometimes things got really slow (2 hours of sitting around).



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Jason BunchRe: Who owns the video?
by on Apr 13, 2010 at 9:05:14 am

Thank you all very much for your input and advice, I truly appreciate it. I will pass the thoughts along to my friend. Thanks again!


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