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Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?

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Jim ZaccariaWho's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 24, 2011 at 8:05:03 pm

Thanks for reading this AND responding to provide me with some Clear direction.
OK, Briefly, here's the situation.

I entered into a verbal agreement with an acquaintance who was hosting/producing a workshop.
Our agreement/Plan was
1. I would go to Vegas where the event was being held.[I'm in Phoenix]
2. I would video record the event where there were to be several speakers/trainers presenting.
3. We would collaborate on creating a DVD set for sale.[he said 8]
4. We would Split the profits of the sale of all the product(s).

[I'll BET you can See where This is going...]

What Happened...

1. I went to Vegas [1day travel each way]
2. I paid the event producer $100 to share a room at the event hotel for 2nights [separate beds, thank you]
3. I helped set-up room with audio [he had NO Clue] AND my video, including feed to My mic.
4. Approximately 9 people showed up for the event,
- 3 speakers, 2 of whom refused to speak to an empty room,
- the producer who Didn't present because he Wasn't prepared
- myself, 2 others and a guest of one of the planned speakers.
- One other speaker flew in on Sunday to make a presentation, which was the Highlight of the event.
5. A film crew dropped by the event room to capture some clips to include in a documentary they were shooting nearby.
'They' had everyone in the room sign a release form.
6. My 'friend'/event producer/host did Not have a release from anyone.
7. I had to leave Sunday evening, [After the event, though earlier than planned], due to an urgent private/personal family matter. We were going to review the footage Monday.
8. A few days later, I was notified by, the event host, that he wanted HIS tapes AND that I had NO right to them so that he could create a product with someone else [a local editor]. [This was NOT part of Our 'Plan']

I am Also being Threatened and Harangued by this guy who says he intends to Sue me AND destroy me on the internet if I don't send him the tapes. He keeps changing deadlines to his threats and ultimatums.

My stance is:
A - As HE Did Not Deliver as promised, there can be No Product to realize an ROI from, therefore, I would at Least like my expenses covered [I was offered $100, I have $300 out of pocket + 4Days which I figure I'm Out, no matter what]
B - Before I release ANY video, I want to have a Release from everyone IN the Video footage, including the film crew.

My Questions:
> Most importantly, as the videographer, am I 'at risk' because there were No Releases for those in the videos?
> Am I wrong to Simply desire to - Cover My A-- AND expenses ?
> Who 'owns' the tapes? I brought & Used all my own equipment & tapes.
> What do You advise I do? What would YOU Do?


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Bill DavisRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 24, 2011 at 10:00:40 pm

This is simple.

Be polite, reasonable, and sensible about it. Sensible is that unless he pays you for your time and efforts shooting this - he doesn't get the footage - period.

If he tries to trash your reputation - he can be sued for liable. It's his choice to risk that.

Tell him to look up "work made for hire" on the internet. He'll get a thousand hits. All the credible ones will tell him that in the absence of a signed agreement stating otherwise, the copyright to any creative work vests with it's CREATOR. In this case, the footage is a creative work. You created the footage. You own it. He may well own his part of the CONTENT displayed on the tapes - and the other speakers will likely own THEIR content on the tapes (absent a signed agreement specifying otherwise) - but YOU own the rights to this particular "fixed in a tangible form" expression of it (the footage)

So you're at a standoff. You can't do anything with his content without HIS permission - and he can't use your footage without YOUR permission.

Unless the law has changed recently, it's usually as simple as that.

"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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Jim ZaccariaRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 24, 2011 at 10:44:49 pm

Thanks, Bill.

Always Polite & Reasonable.

What you've stated is "My" understanding too. I Mostly want to be sure I'm covered re: the release issue, because the film crew's company Has a Budget.

Does this mean I could 'Legally' make a 'deal' with another presenter? I don't necessarily have a Desire to, mind you, Because, I believe that He has a Lot invested AND deserves an opportunity to recoup that investment. I'm just curious about That point. Does He Own Their content, or do They?

My goal with this situation is to get back close to Zero, though Every minute spent on it is going the wrong direction.


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Bill DavisRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 25, 2011 at 5:26:38 am

In copyright issues there are layers within layers within layers.

You own the copyrights to the tapes you shot. They are your creative work. That has NO bearing on any other copyrights that might be embedded in that work. A good example is if you shoot in a restaurant - a background music system was playing a song - the rights holders of the song copyrights STILL have those rights if their work ends up on your tape - and they can legally sue you to prevent you from using their song on your tape without their permission.

That's why I'm saying that if your tape is a recording of someone speaking - that SPEAKER maintains all rights to the speech they've written and presented on your tape unless they specifically assign those rights to you.

What you "own" is the copyright to YOUR work. Nobody can use your footage without your permission. And it's perfectly possible that YOU can't use it either - if it contains someone elses copyright material.

The ONLY safe situation is when you've paid attention to all the parties work contained in your "derivative work" and secured release from all the rights holders to all the copyright works contained therein.

This is why those professionals came equipped with RELEASES when they showed up. They wanted to DOCUMENT that the rights to broadcast or otherwise use the footage they shot had been cleared.

It sounds like neither YOU - nor the people who hired you - did that. So your stuck with everyone having their own copyrights to the parts of the content that they created (the speech and the separate recording thereof ) and as a result - neither party can turn it into anything marketable without the other parties permission.

That's simply how this stuff works.

"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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Mark SuszkoRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 25, 2011 at 2:56:55 pm

Time to pull the big yellow-striped handle on the side of the pilot seat on this project.

You tell this alleged producer, cash money up front, or no tape. Say goodbye to any thoughts of using this with anybody else; just get that ouit of the way, that ship has sailed.

Absent something written on paper and signed tot he contrary, what you've been told about work for hire is on target. You own the raw footage. You can't use it commercially yourself, but it represents effort and expense you took to go capture those frames and that sound. Any small clams judge will likely give you the amount you paid for the hotel and for the raw stock, any gear rentals, and your hours spent shooting. Forget about trying to get any profit out of this and consider yourself lucky if you recover your expenses.

On no account do you let footage go until the check has cleared the bank. Deadlines, shmedlines. The tapes are your only leverage.

Avoid threats of suits and libel and slander, unless you're prepared to waste more money than this is about, to pursue it thru the courts.


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Jim ZaccariaRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 25, 2011 at 6:15:27 pm

Thanks for your response, your input is Valued.


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Mads Nybo JørgensenRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Aug 3, 2011 at 12:49:43 am

I'm with Mark on this one. I had a similar situation last year with an Award event. A good and trustworthy friend got me involved last minute, 3 cameras, one evening of filming + cost to tapes and transport. In return we would build a broadcast property that we would co-own with the event creator for a minimum of 5 years. All good so far.

Except after the event, the deal was suddenly off the table. In fact, it was a favour all along to the event creator - who turned out in my opinion to be a dishonest slime-bag. I told the lot of them to either pay our firms normal reasonable fee for the shoot, or get stuffed. They didn't have the money (or any money at all), so I've got the tapes. Next time, no matter how good and sincere my friend is, I'll ask for contract and cash upfront. Another lesson learned.

All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Please do visit our faceBook page here: http://www.facebook.com/MacMillionProductions

Mac Million Ltd. - Digital Media Production
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Jim ZaccariaRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 25, 2011 at 6:13:39 pm

Thank You for Your Reply, Your input is Valued.


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Steve WargoRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Aug 9, 2011 at 7:01:36 am

Bill is 100% correct. YOU own the copyright to the footage but it's a useless copyright because you cannot use any of it without the permission of everyone involved.

No attorney will take his case unless he pays them to do so because there is zero chance that they will collect.

If he didn't purchase the tape stock, he doesn't own crap.

I was part of a huge intellectual property lawsuit (a witness) a few years ago here in Phoenix and the purchaser of the tapes is the owner of the tapes unless there is a contract contrary to that.

Give the tapes to your attorney and give the guy your attorney's phone number.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .

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Scott CarnegieRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 25, 2011 at 3:16:36 pm

Get paid for your costs and time, hand over the tapes and let him have the headache of getting clearances and making something out of it. If only 9 people were there, most of which were part of the production, how prepared is this person to make something out of it anyways? RUN!

http://www.MediaCircus.TV
Media Production Services
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


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Jim ZaccariaRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Jul 25, 2011 at 6:09:16 pm

Thanks for your response, your input is Valued.


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Jim ZaccariaRe: Who's Liable? - Who 'owns' tapes?
by on Aug 9, 2011 at 8:38:50 pm

Thank You ALL for your Commments AND Recommendations.

Your Experience, Expertise AND Time to Thoughtfully Post your Guidance is Greatly Appreciated.

Long Time, No See, Steve - It IS a Dry Heat!

I'm Glad to have re-Discovered the 'COW'... Had I done so sooner, I might have avoided this situation. I also see I'm Not the 'only one' to be a bit too trusting. Glad to have this 'Learning Experience' behind me, NOT to be repeated Again.

Hopefully someone else will Also gain from this discussion and Avoid making the Same errors. From Now On, it's Cash AND a Contract Up Front!


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