When Do I retain the rights to my work and when does the client get them.

Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews Forums General Video and Film Discussion When Do I retain the rights to my work and when does the client get them.

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    • #43042

      Ok, I am tring to understand my ownership rights on material a shoot and edit.

      I know that if I where to go out and shoot stock footage I would hold the copyrights to it, and could sell the footage with a limited or full copyright.

      Now I make a wedding video for a clientand am paid my fee to do so. Do I hold any of the rights to that materal as its creater? Just by creating the workdoes itlegally bind me asthe copyright holder?

      ok now say I do a comercal for a local car lot or something similar. lets say the ad runs for a year. Can the car lot make changes to the ad with out my consent?

      then finaly when do my clients have the right to sell a project that I make for them?

      THanks for your coments

    • #180291

      contract contract contract

    • #180292

      As Johnboy stated;

      Spell out all those issues in the contract with your client.

      If those are key issues for you, they should be in a checklist (along with payment schedule(s), release/other forms needed,and other fees/charges) so as you interview your potential client you can get those answers and write them into the contract for signature before the job is started.

    • #180293

      Along with the above information a key issue regarding “work for hire” or employee and/or contractors, and copyright ownership: without contract or work agreement stipulation, for the most part, anything you acquire, edit and produce using another company/business owner’s equipment, taking their direction and creating according to their stipulations, you are acting as an employee and not a contractor, and your work belongs to them. There are exceptions, but only a legal agreement will stand in your favor when in doubt.

      If your contract/production agreement stipulates what you do is a “work for hire” it’s theirs to do with as they wish, any time they wish, and you have no say. Your only defense would be if you have something in writing and they blatantly disregard such stipulations.

      If you contract work (wedding, commercial, etc. ) for yourself, or for another, use your own equipment and creative directives in the production of the final product, and you have obtained the necessary and required releases, signed contract acknowledgments, etc. to the limits of any other copyright materials your production might contain (released or no – commercial music, for example, signage, trademarks, etc.) the creative elements, music you created and performed, graphics you created and designed, content you videotaped and edited are yours from the moment of their existence. It doesn’t hurt, of course, to claim and defend your copyright anytime you share, sell, make public on web sites, etc. your ownership with the date and name.

      There are or can be exceptions, and ANY agreement, contract or commercial/creative production done by you should so state. This will not always keep things out of court, but will often provide the necessary deterent or defense in the case of a misunderstanding or infringement claim by you or another party.

      I am NOT an licensed or practicing attorney or legal counsel. This information is NOT based on ANY degree or certification to practice law, or to give legal advice. It is given in the spirit of sharing from experience and not intended to be taken in whole or in part as sound, accurate or otherwise appropriate advice. Use any or all of it as you will at your own risk, holding Earl Chessher harmless and without liability for any application to which you may apply it – including the death by vehicle of your pet dog, horse, pig or cat.

    • #180294


      Traditionally the ‘producer’ you own the ‘original’ material and the client owns ‘the final product’ unless expressly stipulated otherwise in a written contract. Johnboy and Crafters are correct it is so much simpler to set up a contract and clarify who owns what. Your compensation for services, milestone timeframes, deadlines, rules of time extensions and ownership of the produced materials and the final product are very important portions that must be included in the document. One thing you should insist upon even if the client wants complete ownership of the original materials is your right to the unrestricted use portions of the OM’s for your demo and promotional materials. Long as the portions used are not ‘sensitive’ (i.e. classified or industrial proprietary based) they should not object. If they do, you may want to reasses whether you want them as a client. Whatever is agreed to stick with the terms. Doing so will save your hindparts in the event of a contract dispute.

    • #180295

      I tried quoting your inquiry but was directed back to the videomakers forum.

      If others have had this problem we should report it to the Forum master.

      Copywriting your works gives you all rights to them and they can only be given away by your explicit and specific granting of them.

      You never have to give up your own rights unless sufficiently satisfied to do so.Artists usually givecopyright permission to others while retaining their own copyright.

      Just include the copyright notice in your material so there is no doubt of your original copyright.

    • #180296

      Sorry John,

      Your information is simply too broad and does not come near the reality of copyrights – yours or the other persons contents in a production. Such a broad, general application to copyrights will eventually get someone in a tight situation legally speaking.

    • #180297


      Earl is dead on. Though your work is considered protected by copyright upon its completion and affixation into a permanent medium (film, video, dvd, etc.) you the content creator are responsible to establish the ‘chain of title’ immediately by filing for copyright. Yes you can put the words ‘Copyright …’ onto your creation, but the symbol ” is only official once you’ve received your certificate of copyright. The last thing any content creator wants is to have ownership of their work challenged and not be able to produce the certificate after only having the symbol as ‘protection’.

    • #180298

      One aspect not mentioned here is model consent forms. You may own the copyright of everything you videotape and produce, but it you have people in any of those shots, they have a say as to where you can show or display your video (web, TV, stock video houses, etc.) You need to write specific clauses in the client production agreement that states you have copyright to the video material and thatsigning the agreement equates to giving up anylegal rights to how the video is used.Since yourclients can’t sign over other people’s rights,to cover yourself with everyone else in the shots (i.e. wedding party, family members,friends, etc.,) you need topost signsat every entrance stating that the event will be videotaped, and that entry serves as consent to be videotaped andthat the copyright owneris authorized to use the video in any way he/she choses. You can also have the DJ give a verbal disclaimer.For every event, Ido a quick walk-around to videotape all the signs I’ve placed as proof that I notified everyone.Whilesomeone could still file a legal claim saying theydidn’t see the signs,having video proofshows you did everything possible to let people know.


    • #180299

      “… Artists usually givecopyright permission to others
      while retaining their own copyright.”

      You are confusing use rights (licensing) with copyright. When I buy a DVD, I own a piece of plastic that contains copyrighted material and a limited license to view the content for my personal enjoyment only. There is only one copyright but many forms of use.

    • #180300

      “… You can also have the DJ give a verbal disclaimer.For every event,
      Ido a quick walk-around to videotape all the signs I’ve placed as
      proof that I notified everyone.Whilesomeone could still file a legal
      claim saying theydidn’t see the signs,having video proofshows you
      did everything possible to let people know.”

      Oh good grief.

      You really expect someone to go to a wedding and *not* expect that a photographer and videographer will be there?

    • #180301

      This is one of those situations where a $100 meeting with a lawyer can save you buku bucks in the long run.

      We sat down with a lawyer before we started our business and he laid out a terms and conditions page that we get every client to sign. In short, we own the copyright to all our work, but we license usage rights to our clients. If clients wish to purchase the copyright, it’s an option.

      As far as the right to privacy and filming uninformed guests goes, on our T&C page it specifically states that the client is wholly responsible for informing all guests we will be shooting at the event. We threw that in there because people have in the past freaked out about being recorded (never happened to us, but our lawyer said it has happened). We were told though that even if someone made a stink about that, there’s a certain expectation that there’s a lack of privacy at events such as weddings, since they are traditionally recorded in some form.

      If you really want to do copyright correctly, get a lawyer to halp you figure out a boilerplate terms and conditions. But even if you don’t do that, spell it all out yourself in a contract.

    • #180302

      What about venue? If you shoot a wedding at a church or other private facility do you need a release from the owners? Do they retain rights as to the use of the video?

    • #180303

      You may grant them the ability to show the video if you wish, but it is something that is worked out in a contract and yes you need a release form.

    • #180304

      Again, in cases like this my contract it states that the couple getting married is responsible for acquiring all rights and releases to shoot the video there.

      Most of the time, again, there’s an expectation that in these places you will be recorded. However, even so I work closely with officiants/property owners on the rehearsal & event day to make sure that we don’t violate their personal policies (don’t film this, don’t move around during filming, etc…), as we want to be a good community neighbor. I’ve never shown up to a location and been told that we could not film. There was one garden where when we showed up, the grounds coordinator pointed out that a permit neded to be purchased from their office to shoot video in the area, but that was easy to resolve, and because the clients agreet to be responsible for securing all rights, we didn’t have to let that eat into our profits.

    • #180305

      Weddings are a little different from, say, a scripted show, because again, there’s an expectation that you’re going to be recorded. Over 90% of brides hire some form of professional, be it photo or video, for their wedding, and indeed photography is even part of the wedding tradition anymore.

      Because of this expectation, what we’ve been told is that no, we do not need to gather releases from every participant, even if we would show clips from the video in public (say as an advertisement or a demo reel). By attending an event where photographic recording of guests is common and expected, they void any right to privacy from being photographed or videotaped. Or at least that’s what my lawyer told me that our state law allows.

      Now for some shoots for a wedding (for example if yhou’re making a staged video on a set to be played at a wedding) you still need releases, butthat’s an entirely different beast.

      And as always, don’t take my word for it. Lawyers are more affordable than you’d think!

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