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Music video copyright/ownership

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Ryan Conway
Music video copyright/ownership
on Feb 18, 2019 at 4:19:10 pm

Hello All-

Trying to obtain a little clarity regarding both legality and a general sense of what is common practice or considered fair.

Backstory- I'm a music producer and studio owner, have done a fair amount of sync licensing etc so I have a solid idea of how copyright works in my world. Recently I'm partnering with another guy and we are expanding into more of a full service production company. We are writing/producing the music, and also offering both in studio and full music videos in package deals to the artists, as well as ultimately marketing and pitching them.

In the video category, we are hiring out all the shooting and editing of the video to pro's. They bring their lights, cameras, drones and any camera movement equipment. What we are responsible for is coordinating with the client, hiring and organizing any actors, dancers, choreographers, stylists etc as well as renting any space, or using the recording studio space, providing any backdrops, working with clients on any storylines etc.

So naturally my question is what is a reasonable approach to copyright ownership of the final work product and the raw footage? I know that ultimately it comes down to contracts, but in music there are some 'norms' that aren't strictly legal, but are common enough that people who don't abide by them are generally shown the door. I'm wondering if anyone has any input here? How might that differ if we pay the rate card vs say double their advertised rates?

Also, by no means am I here only to affirm my desires (if that makes sense). I'm a creative professional and demand that not only is my work respected, but I also demand that everyone we work with respected and treated fairly. Looking to build long term relationships here.

Thanks and sorry for the long post!

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Todd Terry
Re: Music video copyright/ownership
on Feb 18, 2019 at 4:26:19 pm

That seems pretty clear cut to me.

You are the producer, and if I were you I'd make sure you own and retain all the rights.

On the client side of things, you just need to make sure your contract spells out that the client owns the rights to the finished production as a whole and as a single entity... but that you retain rights and ownership to all elements that make it up... everything from photography to graphics to music performances and everything else. That way your client can do whatever they wish with the project... as long as they don't alter it. And they cannot, for example, rip the music track and use it elsewhere or for something else, or take a piece of the video and use it for something else.

On the vendor side of things, you just need to make sure all parties know that it is "work for hire," and that, for example, you have drone photography... that the footage generated is owned by you and those rights do not stay with the drone pilot/photographer.

I'm not sure about this "double rate" business... as long as you spell out that it is work for hire then no one should have a problem with whatever their regular rate for that is.

At least that's the way I'd do it.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Ryan Conway
Re: Music video copyright/ownership
on Feb 18, 2019 at 4:55:58 pm

Thanks Todd-

And maybe to add to it just a little, the husband and wife team that we have been hiring has been very good with offering locations, suggestions and ideas for lighting, and great with coaching the artists to get good shots/footage at the shoot. They also will check out the set and make some suggestions for things to have at the shoot (they suggested fog machine, some sheer fabric, we went and bought those).

In my world, if I hire a session guitarist at his rate, he really is only obligated to play note-for-note what I ask him to play. If I need someone who can make some creative contributions, I usually offer to either pay more or include a small split of the publishing. Publishing is very easy to split via PRO's though. In this context, he didn't write the song, but maybe did write a cool melody that is part of it.

We do appreciate the creative input, and we found some people working for really cheaper then they probably should be, so that's where we have offered to pay above (double) their rate card.

Thanks for the feedback.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Music video copyright/ownership
on Feb 20, 2019 at 9:39:54 pm

The vendors and subs are all "work for hire"; they do not own anything of what they shot for you. However, because you are not a jerk or monster, you have a clause in the contract or deal memo that specifies what little samples they can use from the work, in clip form, for demo or portfolio purposes, as long as the attributions are to your liking. And you can set the time period in which these can go public, so they don't mess up your marketing.

You want to enable them to show and promote what they contributed, in a limited way, but they are not allowed to re-sell or otherwise market that footage without your express permission. The drone guy, for example, can show a watermarked clip of thirty seconds or so of his work for you... but he can't re-sell stock footage of that project from any stuff he shot for you. You want this understanding in writing. If he wants a little more money up front for this, that's normal. He's giving up any money on the back-end for all his money up front, and everybody that does a "work for hire" gets this.

Whatever you want to do to reward certain crew for things "above and beyond" their work for hire needs the protection of a stand-alone, written deal memo, detailing that you are paying an extra one-time bonus for a specific service performed., e.g.; " agreed bonus payment for lighting consultation on (date), x amount", that it confers no additional obligations or additional rights to the materials, and you both sign that while you're still on the set. Doing it later could become problematic.

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