Do You Own The Copyright When You Shoot A Video?

Wal-Mart learned the hard way that unless there is a contract stating it is work for hire or assigning ownership of a video, the person who creates it owns it. About 30 years ago Wal-Mart hired a production company to shoot video of internal corporate meetings and executives. The hiring of Flagler Productions was done on a handshake.

Under Section 201(b) of the Copyright Act, “In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.”

If the videos were “works made for hire,” then Wal-Mart (the “person for whom the work was prepared”) should own the rights, unless both parties agreed otherwise in a written agreement.

But the fairly complicated definition of “work made for hire” in section 101 of the statute gives two alternatives:

A “work made for hire” is—

(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or

(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.

Flagler Productions is clearly not an employee and so if there is no written agreement about copyright, then Flagler owns the copyright!

Make sure there’s a clause in your contract that specifically spells out who owns what. This includes the raw footage, project files, EDL, etc. There should also be a clause explaining that copies of the material can be made at such and such a rate. Get this contract signed BEFORE any work begins.

Typically, the client owns just a copy of the finished work. But of course, you want to be fair with your client and build a good relationship that will result in more business for both of you. So discuss this with the client and make a contract that gives both parties what they want. For more information see The Harvard Law Blog – Wal-Mart Execs Behaving Badly: Who Owns the Videos? This article is not a substitute for legal advice.

See Professional Video Producer: How To Start a Successful Home-Based Business Producing Corporate Videos

Keep Reading...

Lufthansa and DJI Drone Technology

Lufthansa & DJI Develop Commercial Drone Technology

Lufthansa and DJI Drone Technology Lufthansa Aerial Services, a division of Lufthansa Consulting, today signed a deal with DJI to use the world’s leading drone-maker’s aerial platforms to develop commercial applications for its key customers. A recent pilot project to inspect rotor blades on wind turbines was just completed by the Lufthansa and DJI. Other […]

Read More
FAA files model pilot

FAA takes first legal action against model airplane pilot

FAA takes first legal action against model airplane pilot. Raphael Pirker was fined $10,000 for illegally

Read More
NTSB says drones subject to FAA

NTSB says Drone Flights Subject to FAA Regulations

NTSB says drone flights are subject to FAA regulations. Disappoints aerial videographers who fly quadcopters and fixed wing model aircraft.

Read More
Produce Video For The NY Times

Produce Video For The NY Times

Get Ready To Produce Video For The NY Times You can produce video for the NY Times. If you can point to a short doc or samples on the web and can pitch an idea, you could produce an OP-Doc for the NY Times. Op-Doc is short for opinionated documentaries. They are typically 5 -10 […]

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Forbes Magazine calls VideoUniversity one of the best business-to-business sites for digital video production.
    Videography Magazine's
    "Website of the Month" Award
    PC Magazine Online "Best Desktop Video Site" Award
    CyberFilm School's "FOUR STAR" Award