Media Rights for School Event Videography

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    • #47205


      First I want to say that this is a great community. I’ve learnt a lot here.

      Recently, I’ve been asked to cover some Performances by kids for the School.

      I have 3 questions here :

      1. Should we charge anything to the school? Or should there be a deposit involved? Or it is usually free for the school – meaning the school does not pay anything?

      2. Is it okay to ask for Exclusivity and ask that parents should not be allowed to Videotape their own child’s event since it’s being professionally videotaped?

      3. What kind of Media Rights should be given to the school. Are they allowed to use the footage for Marketing and PR on website and open school events or should we charge them for that?

      Thanks for all your help.


    • #194355

      Here’s my experience, and we do a LOT of school performance/event gigs.

      Free to school? We started out charging the school – performing arts class, music class, band, football, grad night, etc. but that didn’t work very well. So, we started a “minimum order – direct-to-parents” program with the school group, class or organization (band boosters, for example) distributing order forms, collecting orders and money, either paying us with one check or handing over the checks made out to our company.

      Occasionally we’ve had to kick back a bit, or for major sales of 75 units or more, given a cut to the organizing group or class or school authority. They purchase them outright for a given price and sell them for whatever they can get as a fundraiser or whatever.

      I’ve also had groups purchase my minimum order outright and never hear from them again.

      I know copies are made and sold outside any agreement I make with them. I know I’ll rarely sell more than 70 percent of the participants due to this. I know even if I purchased a duplicator with copy protection built in, one out of every two people have something that will break the protection and still make and give away, or sell copies.

      I DO require a deposit to “hold the date” because if the organization has nothing invested going in there’s nothing to keep them from taking a “better deal” perceived or otherwise if one comes along, canceling out on me at the last minute and costing me a gig I might have been able to land elsewhere. So, a deposit to hold the date, refunded, depending on the agreement, if minimums are met, or total sales exceed, etc. They take their cut, if any, deduct the deposit and pay me the difference in one check or whatever.

      Exclusivity? It’s OK to ask for it, and most of the time the school or group organizers, owner, whatever, will make that announcement – especially if they’re riding on the “purchase and resell wagon” and want to make their money. HOWEVER, in the hundreds of school and other events I do a year I’ve never seen it work. Parents WILL (I paid for their costumes, instruments, dance shoes, lessons, taxes, and admission and by God I’m going to take photos and shoot video if I damn well please) do it anyway.

      And the officials DO NOT want to P.O. the parents because that is the constituency they have to depend on for support in many ways. Never antagonize the parents and especially the president of the support group (think band boosters, etc.).

      So, ask and get it (the announcement) but don’t expect it to carry much weight.

      Media Rights? You have the rights to the footage you shot, and the production you created from it. You have all rights for use and marketing or resell or whatever, even repurposing, but be sure you have signed releases for EVERY person appearing or performing. I will not videotape a production without parental release and proof of copyright release to the actual production itself – music, script, performance, etc. – from the organization.

      In many instances I can get by with signed parental releases for those ordering because in some performances (dance, for example) I only need to have releases from the acts who want to purchase a copy. If it is an ensemble or group of 6, 8, 10 etc. then peer pressure usually results in all of the parents providing signed releases that are included on my order forms. If an act or acts does not result in signed releases, or releases for ALL, then it simply is not offered or provided until all releases are in my possession.

      Primarily these people are going to consider what you produced for them as a “work for hire” whether or not your agreement states otherwise. Good luck enforcing any kind of restrictions or exclusivity unless you’re dealing with a professional group, not a school – public or private. They will use the rights they want – and parents will throw up snippets or poorly transferred performances on YouTube with or without your blessing. So will the kids. Good luck fighting that – it’s bigger than city hall or the feds. You cannot fight it. It’s a losing proposition and will cut way down on your popularity, promotions with other schools/groups, referrals, and renewables.

      The more difficult or restrictive you try to make it for the individual, school, group or organization the less business you will attract. I found it simpler to accept whatever minimums I’ve established that I’m willing to accept and get on with my business life.

      I used to sweat and fret over “pirating” illegal distribution, duplication and re-sales, unauthorized uploading, etc. but if you (I) want to do business, accept the loss of sales that comes with it. That IS GOING to happen and if you want to do business in this environment you’re going to have to accept that inevitability IMHO.

      Insist upon an agreement

      Get a deposit to hold the date, however you arrange for return or reimbursement, or miniums

      Get releases

      Confirm that the organization has the rights to videotape and distribute copies (for profit, sale or not)

      Establish a minimum number of sales, minimum price and length of time to delivery (I used to think that early delivery was a no-brainer, but soon realized that if I took 4-to-6-weeks to deliver, I got more sales. Early delivery simply cut off my sales because some of those who were slow with the orders then could obtain a copy from a friend)

    • #194356

      Earl brings up good points and Iwhat I see now ismore and more school systems are now frowning upon recording of the events due to the failure of videographers not obtaining copyright licenses to record and distribute copies of performances and obtaining the proper releases from participants. You will find that most, if not all, do not purchase the rights to record the pieces they purchase, the general license, especially with music (choral or band) is to perform and make copies of the music for use by the performers. The right to record and distribute is seperate. The only ‘legitimate’ way to ensure you have exclusive rights to record is to obtain the license by contacting the publishers of each piece used in the performance and have the school enforce a no recording device policy at the event.

    • #194357

      Thank you so much Earl and John for taking the time to reply to this thread. You bring up some good points and invaluable advice.

      1. How much deposit is a fair one – if the school doesn’t need a cut?
      2. Generally speaking, how much should a minimum sales be?
      3. Would it be possible to share your Agreement and Release forms?
      4. If the school has a document signed from each parent in the begining of the year regarding no objection to photo or video, am I covered or should I ask for specific release for my company and use?
      5. I understand that I’ll have the Media Rights once I have the Releases. But what about the school? What kind of rights do they have? Should I give them the media/ footage/ DVDs for free or charge them? Charge them for business use on the internet and self promotion? What should that price be? The same as I’m charging the parents?

      Thanks for all the help.

    • #194358

      There are, actually, instances where the school or organizing group can and does obtain the rights to videotape their performances with distribution of the end product to the school, classroom and students labeled “Not for resale, for education purposes only”. Rare, but not to be excluded from consideration.

      I should also point out that much of my “competition” comes from independent video people who offer to produce and sell after I’ve turned a school down due to questionable copyright issues. I’m too busy to police everybody or to take a heavy-handed approach and turn in, file a complaint, or report every occurrence of such. I’m just too burdened by all that I have to do in my life to play “copyright cop” and so I do not.

      I educate where it is possible. I point out the significance of it all where they’ll listen. I provide a quality product for a reasonable price (IMHO) and I do not walk away bitter or cry in my milk if we cannot connect on a production. Invariably another call, inquiry or client will come in and I cannot lose a gig I never had.

    • #194359

      Responding to you, Shelly.

      I require a $200-to-$300 deposit to “hold the date” and guarantee my being there on time and prepared.

      I require a minimum of 20 sales at $25 – that is less than some, and unbelievably more than others, but for a performance of two hours or less with minimal editing I can live with $500.

      NOTE: RARELY is the minimum where it hangs (there’s a couple who ONLY purchase that, but they have maybe 15-20 students or participants) as I usually get double my minimum and anything after that is really decent money IMHO. Others may have differing opinions, that’s their prerogative.

      I have had occasions where school have obtained parental or guardian releases at the beginning of the year covering their participation in public or private events, photography, sometimes specifically videography, and have accepted a copy of the document(s) or access to them after actually seeing and reading.

      It is my experience, and my earlier response was intended to reflect that, that the school is going to consider what you do as a “work for hire” and will most likely NOT go with you if you otherwise attempt to restrict their use of the resulting video or production.

      I attempt to set up things in such a way that the school obtains additional copies from me at a set price after the event and first delivery, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Too many, too often for me to police them or try to keep tabs of who’s “ripping me off” so to speak.

      I’ve found, or determined, that there’s little if any resell or repurposing value to these productions beyond the occasional contact over the years from somebody who lost theirs or had it damaged, etc. For that purpose I maintain a DVD master and sometimes even have the master still on hard drive.

      While I state and specifically note that I will be using footage or productions in the future for promotional purposes or even perhaps occasionally selling something to a producer seeking “America’s Funniest WHATEVER” content, and claim the rights to such use or sale with no addition compensation due the school; I DO NOT SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDE or refuse them the right to show, exhibit, share, include or otherwise repurpose that footage for anything they may want.

      In my experience the investment of time and effort to police use, keep tabs of “violations” or whatever is NOT profitable, nor is it mentally or physically healthy for me to go about all the other business in which I’m involved and WORRY over such.

      Perhaps one day I (or you) might regret not having exclusive and/or restrictive rights assigned to me, and the compensation requirements from the school spelled out if, for example, a future president or some other student achieves HUGE star status, but on the other hand I do not perceive living long enough for that to be an issue either.

      It is better, as I said previously, and less stressful, to simply go for what the production can bring you and what you find acceptable for your compensation up front and not worry about rights, releases or business use charges and fees. The day and age for being able to manage that, much less control the countless issues involved, is gone. No more like, as with photographers, where you hung onto the negatives due to a lucrative re-print and future sales potential. In video, that’s what stock video companies are for, and they’re not particularly interested in school performance videos.

    • #194360

      “…failure of videographers not obtaining copyright licenses to record and distribute copies of performances… It’s not the videographer’s job to secure video rights – it’s the producer or whomever negotiated for the performance book in the first place. If you are shooting as work-for-hire, then you have NO responsibility for securing clearances. (Side note- as a pro, you are assumed to have superior knowledge in regard to clearances, so if the production is busted, pleading stupidity won’t wash). If you are shooting as an independent vendor not connected to the production, then you are responsible for getting an assurance of the clearances from the producer, who is responsible for securing those clearances. In other words, a letter from the producer that the rights have been acquired is probably sufficient that you were working on good faith.

      I am not a lawyer, but I did play one in a short-story. I have produced a lot of school plays, musicals and dance performances for my experience.

      Exclusivity – Waste of time and it makes you look petty. Besides the publisher of the book may require the announcement anyway.

      Copy Protection – Waste of time and any attempt makes you look petty. And greedy. Not only do I not sweat people making copies, I ENCOURAGE IT! And my sales went UP!!! I even provide the disc art as an ‘extras’ file on the DVD.

      How would you like to be treated as a parent at the event?

      FWIW – I have been shooting performance videos for ten years, and I have asked but only found ONE example of anyone being “busted” for not having clearances. That was a third-hand example, but plausible – a High School produced a Disney book (“book” is the publisher’s scripts, scene design guidelines, publicity logos, and clearances), had the production videotaped, and advertised DVD’s for sale on their website. Disney copyright cops busted them.

      So, I’ll ask again. Does ANYONE in this venue have any FIRST-HAND experience with or know anyone who has been called to task by a publisher for clearance violations?

    • #194361

      Steve, not really the point, is it – how many have been “busted”?

      I totally agree that under the circumstances you describe it is not the videographer’s responsibility to obtain copyright licenses. And I also agree that it IS our responsibility to at least note they exist, or not.

      As is said about people who exceed 35 MPH limits in residential areas, claiming they saw no signs posted: Ignorance of the law is no defense.

      I’m on more of a CYA kick rather than a morality kick here so nobody get all hickey on me – I’ve had my moments of common sense lapses right along with the rest.

      Work for hire isn’t often or always stated but it should be because 9 out of 10 groups are going to consider that’s what you’re doing, and if the question comes up, and you don’t have something that STATES otherwise, could be difficult to defend against a legal argument.

      So if work for hire is defined then there’s NO responsibility beyond the point you made in parentheses.

      “Waste of time and it makes you look petty” is a good indictment.

      Finally, back to the existence of “first-hand” experience, or one removed, of anyone called to task by a publisher for clearance violations: In the legal sense of argument either way, doesn’t matter. Just because a person is paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get him/her πŸ˜‰

    • #194362


      Thanks Earl and Steve. There’s so much more to think about….than just Video Shooting the Event. You both bring up some good points.

    • #194363

      Shelly, this area of independent video production can be highly lucrative, especially in the more densely populated regions.

      The MORE simple an independent professional event video services provider can make the process of doing business with his/her company, the more opportunities develop – especially if you engage in and persistently maintain an ongoing direct-mail campaign strategy to develop eyeballs and awareness, AND your branding.

      I call such event work a “work once, sell many” approach. Most such events are under two hours. I can currently digitize or ingest the footage from two cameras in two hours or less. I can do the basic editing (cutting out the slow periods between performances or dance numbers, theatrical acts, etc.), add opening title, closing credits and even throw in a montage of stills captured from the unused footage or best close-ups in six hours, or less.

      On average, all told, I put in 8-to-10 hours, make a minimum of $500 ($50 per hour) and have made as much as $400 per hour counting burning, printing and packaging. As mentioned earlier, I’ve had ONLY minimum sales of 20 @ $25. and I’ve sold literally hundreds of copies at between $20 and $45, depending on certain variables.

      Yes, there’s a LOT of competition, but quality, professional decorum, and relatively quick (two weeks or so) delivery will keep them calling you back. Sales trickle in over the year between annual events, and there’s always a slight surge in the previous year’s performance videos by return parents/students participating in the current year event.

      Where are you located, Shelly? How long have you been in the business? Full- or part-time? I have something that might be of interest to you to expand your video production horizons. Please e-mail me at if you are the least bit curious.

    • #194364


      I discovered that many general licenses bought by schools and amateur production companies allow for recording the performance for use by the performers and crew. So, I market only to that group which, for many kids’ plays can be quite large. The order form I use clearly states that only members of the cast and crew may purchase the videos and they must state their character name or position on the order form. It is easy to check for interlopers because everyone involved is listed in the program.

      Sure, parents buy the videos and give them to friends etc, but from my point of view I have complied with the agreement. A lawyer friend of mine informally said this is okay, but that is unofficial.

      This doesn’t limit your market because, realistically, who else is going to buy the video?

      As far as exclusivity of any kind goes, forget it. You’ll be lucky to get good camera positions and a connection to the school’s sound board.

      Good luck, you’ll need it. Because you are dealing with amateurs – kids in many cases – this is not as easy as it sounds. Teachers/directors have their hands full and nobody is really sure how anything works. I survive this by doing repeat business with the same groups. They have gotten used to me wiring into their equipment, placing cameras in the best locations and even “helping” with the lighting.

      I fix things and provide tools etc that they need from time to time.

      Works for me,


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