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Owning your own footage? ..How?

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Dan Centrone
Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Feb 25, 2011 at 5:02:12 pm

Im sure this gets posted everyday on this board but i could really use some advice. Keep in mind before reading my situation i'm already seeking legal advice. I just want to know what everyone thinks.

Long story short i shot a music video for an artist who is a friend. His manager was the one who gave me a ride to the shoot and we discussed putting it on the managers site and what not and how it would be under his managers company. I shot the music video with all of my own equiptment and my ideas for the video. I was Director/DP/Editor. I also rented a lens for the shoot that the manager was supposed to reimburse me for upon meeting up (i never got the money). So this dude kind of went nuts and the artist and i want nothing to do with him or have this video connected with him. Going nuts includes yelling at me and demanding for me to give him the raw footage without him ever paying me. I handed it over because he came at me in a very threatening matter and i wanted to just get out of the situation. Also keep in mind NO CONTRACTS WERE SIGNED. No legal document or contracts were ever signed by me or the artist for this video or his the artists management so there is nothing outlining any details to anything with the video and what each person gets out of it. Me and the artist want to put his video online without the consent of the manager but the manager has threatened that he will have it taken down and take us to court. Where do i stand? Do i legally own this footage which means i can do what i want with it? Does this guy own the footage since i was "hired (without any contract and i was never paid or reimbursed)" to do the video? PLEASE HELP. Thanks. I know i shouldnt be going to a message board for legal advice but like i said im already taken a legal route too.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Feb 25, 2011 at 7:25:07 pm

Absent anything written, you own what you shot, physically, is my non-legally binding opinion. The Artist/manager controls the rights to the song and his performance, however. You can own the footage, but you may not be legally able to show it anywhere or sell it to anyone. But you don't have to give it to the manager for nothing. You are at a stand-off right now. If they really need your footage, they will come back to you and eventually offer terms.

Negotiate from strength. First guy to say a number loses. Be prepared to walk away from a deal you don't like, and make yourself, and them, believe you will. Do not accept any deal that is predicated on some future project. You bill them one at a time, and you don't do the next until you get paid in full for the last. You bill for the lens and any other outstanding expenses. You are NOT a bank: do not offer interest free loans of your own money by letting people get paid without paying you.

Break these rules, and you will never escape the Craig's List level of this business.

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Dan Centrone
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Feb 25, 2011 at 7:39:46 pm

Thanks i really appreciate it. My main goal here is to have this footage see the light of day and post the vid online since the artist is my friend and it will get him a lot of exposure as well as myself.

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Walter Soyka
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:54:11 pm

[Mark Suszko] "First guy to say a number loses."

This school of thought goes along the lines that stating a number reveals information about your limits which weakens your position, but there's some dispute in negotiation theory on this.

There's another school of thought called "anchoring" which basically says that the first person to say a number creates the reference point for the rest of the negotiation.

I think that these are two different tactics which serve two different strategies.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events

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Cory Petkovsek
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:07:20 pm

Don't let him scare you. You should not have handed over the raw footage. Hopefully, it was only a copy.

It sounds like you and the artist are on the same side. Depending on what the artist signed with the manager about their deal, the manager may have nothing, or he may be able to prevent you from marketing the artists video.

If the artist never signed anything with the manager about any management deal, then the manager has absolutely no claim, nor right to even display the video.

You should review the artist's contract if there is one. Look for any exclusivity clause barring the artist or a 3rd party from promoting the artist. If there is none, then you and he can post the video as you like; it's your video and his likeness, which he is giving you permission to distribute.

Note that anyone can take anyone to court. That is part of our justice system. But that doesn't mean they have any claim or any hope of winning. This guy is clearly manipulating you because he can. You've shown yourself to bend to his hot air. Don't be afraid of him.

If the threat of legal action is real, or if the contract the artist signed is restrictive to your promotional efforts, talk with an attorney about your options.

Document all contact with the manager. Date, time, subject of each conversation, and any time his behavior is anything other than civil.


Cory Petkovsek
Corporate Video

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grinner hester
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:28:15 pm

He'd own it if he bought it but if I understand correctly, he paid for nothing.
If that's the case, of course, it's your footage.

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Bill Davis
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Feb 25, 2011 at 10:02:29 pm

I think that THIS is precisely why the old saying "possession is nine-tenths of the law" exists.

That phrase does NOT actually speak to legal rights - it speaks to the reality that whoever has the GOODS has control over much of the situation.

While it's VERY hard to stand in the face of an agitated party - if you SURRENDER physical possession of tangible assets you're suddenly in a DEFENSIVE position and t's incredibly easy for a scoundrel to simply deny that they have the stuff and/or put a bunch of blocks in your way to your recovery of your assets.

This is a tough, unfair and annoying situation. But you've just been handed a HUGELY valuable lesson in property management.

If you willingly give up valuable stuff - it's typically VERY difficult get it back.

Next time, you MUST toughen up and if you honestly believe the material is your property - and NEVER EVER voluntarily surrender your only copy of it.


Good luck.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner

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John Baumchen
Re: Owning your own footage? ..How?
on Mar 15, 2011 at 3:11:32 pm

First off, anyone who comes at you in a threatening manner is guilty of an assault, (providing there are witnesses). If they touch you, then it's assault and battery.

Secondly, copyright law states that absent a specific clause in the agreement stating that it is a work for hire, then the creator, (you), owns the copyright. Many here think just because a client gave you money to shoot it, they own it. Wrong. The agreement must state specifically that the services are a work for hire. The only exception is when you are an employee and your job is to shoot/edit.

So you own it.

That being said, if you gave him your raw masters, then good luck in getting them back.

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