Again, I’m not an attorney


Again, I’m not an attorney; but I’ve been in the business a very long time and have gone through a great many contract negotiations, often sitting in with our attorney. It’s absolutely imperative that anyone doing video work have a contract and that included in the contract is a clause spelling out who owns the copyright for work done.

The link below is to the government’s explanation of copyright and “work for hire,” and I’ve included the introduction to the article. As you can see from these, the question of what constitutes “work for hire” is extremely complex. There’s no point in getting embroiled in this, and you don’t have to if your contract spells out exactly who owns the material from the shoot and, if it’s you, how much you’re to be paid for each use of it. An hiring an attorney to oversee the preparation of your contract is the best money you can spend; with a large company, the guys on the other side of the table from you have a staff of lawyers on retainer, just waiting to jump on the details of your contract should the occasion arise.

Click to access circ09.pdf

Under the 1976 Copyright Act as amended (title 17 of the United States Code),
a work is protected by copyright from the time it is created in a fixed form. In
other words, when a work is written down or otherwise set into tangible form,
the copyright immediately becomes the property of the author who created the
work. Only the author or those deriving their rights from the author can rightfully
claim copyright.
Although the general rule is that the person who creates a work is the author
of that work, there is an exception to that principle: the copyright law defines a
category of works called works made for hire. If a work is made for hire, the
employer, and not the employee, is considered the author. The employer may
be a firm, an organization, or an individual.
To understand the complex concept of a work made for hire, it is necessary
to refer not only to the statutory definition but also to its interpretation in cases
decided by courts.

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