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Showreel Legalities


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#1 Daniel Smith

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 09:01 AM

Hi.

I'm in the process of building my showreel. So far I've obtained some royalty free music that my college bought, and have pasted in a whole bunch of video material I've shot and been a part of.

Is there anything I need to do first, ie. obtain written permission from each and every production to use it? Or anything I should bare in mind when making this?


thanks for any insight.
Dan.
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#2 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 09:11 AM

Hi.

I'm in the process of building my showreel. So far I've obtained some royalty free music that my college bought, and have pasted in a whole bunch of video material I've shot and been a part of.

Is there anything I need to do first, ie. obtain written permission from each and every production to use it? Or anything I should bare in mind when making this?


thanks for any insight.
Dan.



Avoid using material that has not been publicly released yet unless you have gotten permission from the Director, producer and possibly even the executive producer. If you get a yes, consider burning something into the image.

If your stuff has already been released, you might want to "credit" the distributor over the footage you are going to use. Not only are you protecting the distributor, you are also protecting yourself against someone else lifting a shot and claiming they did it.
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#3 Serge Teulon

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 10:17 AM

Hi Daniel,

If you have signed your rights away as Dp then you should always ask the Producer and Director if its cool. If you haven't then legally the images are yours as you 'pressed the button'.
In any case, production, unless for legal reasons such as premiering at a festival, should be more than happy to give you a big fat yes.

In regards to music, I don't think that you really should worry too much, as I doubt mr Sony, Island etc...will come after you. Also, if memory serves me right as long as you are not publicly(cinema, tv, any public space) showing your 'film' then you should be ok to use the music.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:22 AM

You should always get in your deal memo somewhere that you can use clips for non-commercial purposes, i.e. you reel.

If you really shot something, I wouldn't worry too much about using it in a reel, unless it is something unreleased and they don't want to unveil any footage until some future point in time. Unless you get permission.

As for music, legally and ethically, you're not supposed to use copyrighted music without permission, but practically, everyone does it all the time -- if it is not something for sale or public display, I don't see a problem with it.
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#5 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:55 AM

If you haven't then legally the images are yours as you 'pressed the button'.


Sorry but that's not true, the images belong to the person who paid for them, i.e. the producer or client.

I hired a DOP for one day once and there was no deal memo stating any thing. The film stock, camera rental, processing, and transfer to video, where all paid for by the client not the DOP. Therefore the client owns the final images. I was also the DOP for three out of the four days on that shoot and the same applies to me. I have the reels here in storage but I can't use the footage for any thing without the clients approval.

Do you have any case law to support your point?

R,
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#6 Will Earl

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 12:46 PM

Richard,

There was an news story earlier on in the year about the production company that filmed the internal meetings at Walmart that now owns the rights to the footage as the two companies had no agreement over the transfer of rights. This blog post talks about it plus it mentions a couple of other related cases about work-for-hire agreements...

http://williampatry....-copyright.html

-W
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#7 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:22 PM

Richard,

There was an news story earlier on in the year about the production company that filmed the internal meetings at Walmart that now owns the rights to the footage as the two companies had no agreement over the transfer of rights. This blog post talks about it plus it mentions a couple of other related cases about work-for-hire agreements...

http://williampatry....-copyright.html

-W


I read through the examples, interesting. I'm not sure it's the same as a DOP walking onto a set where the gear, film stock, sets, actors, etc etc are all provided by some one else.

In the Walmart example, Walmart hires an outside production company who brought in their own gear, bought their own tape stock, etc. And in the case of the wedding photographer the photographer also brings all of his own gear and is not employed by the wedding just as the production company was not employed by Walmart as "staff."

In the case of a feature film the DOP is an employee hired onto the set like every one else. The producer has provided the "work place" all of the camera gear, stock, etc.

Here's another issue if the DOP owns the footage if there is no agreement stating otherwise, does he have to actually operate the camera? What if there is a DOP and an operator? The operator is the guy who actually "pushes the button" so does he now own all of the footage and not the DOP?

What about news photographers and video shooters, do they own the footage they shoot or does the TV station or newspaper? I shot news for a while and it was always understood that the station owns the footage because you are employed by them and they own and supply all of the equipment. If you where a stringer then I can see where the shooter would clearly own the footage since he is not employed by any one station and supplies all of his own gear.

Are we saying that if a DOP shoots a 200 million dollar feature film and there happens to be nothing in his contract that says the studio owns the footage. The DOP would end up owning a 200 million dollar feature film like Batman and would have the legal right to exploit it for financial gain?

That seems like a real stretch.

R,

PS: I congratulate you Will for ACTUALLY providing some case law.
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#8 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:29 PM

The operator is the guy who actually "pushes the button" so does he now own all of the footage and not the DOP?

Well actually the focus-puller pushes the button most of the time :P
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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:32 PM

Also, one of the bloggers on there raises another good point about the people who appear in the footage and the need to get releases. Normally actors sign their releases with the producer and not the DOP. So let's say a DOP does some how end up owning the footage he shot on a particular project, if there are actors faces visible, and he has no signed releases from the actors....what will he do with the footage?

The actors would be able to sue the DOP if he tried to use the footage for anything, even possibly a demo reel or using it as a sample on his website. He has no agreement with the actors after all.

"Mr. Wattles beat me to it, but my first thought - as a copyright lawyer of reasonable experience - wasn't about copyrights at all, but rather rights of privacy/rights of publicity. If the holder of the tapes is selling them to any and all comers, even a First Amendement argument is going to be an uphill battle. They have absolutely no grounds to argue for any kind of release or implied release by virtue of videotaping Wal-Mart employees with Wal-Mart's permission, because almost all jurisdictions require such releases to be in writing and apparently there's no paperwork whatsoever. If any of this work was done in IL or involves IL citizens, or is offered for sale in IL, see 765 ILCS 1075 for what I would call an open-and-shut case by the persons portrayed for statutory and/or actual damages. There is no way that everything in those tapes is newsworthy and justifies a First Amendement pre-emption of these rights, and by making them available in a lump, the holders have created a nearly infinite minefield. I wouldn't be surprised to see the first really big class-action right of publicity/privacy lawsuit ever out of this."
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#10 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:44 PM

I read through the examples, interesting. I'm not sure it's the same as a DOP walking onto a set where the gear, film stock, sets, actors, etc etc are all provided by some one else.

In the Walmart example, Walmart hires an outside production company who brought in their own gear, bought their own tape stock, etc. And in the case of the wedding photographer the photographer also brings all of his own gear and is not employed by the wedding just as the production company was not employed by Walmart as "staff."

In the case of a feature film the DOP is an employee hired onto the set like every one else. The producer has provided the "work place" all of the camera gear, stock, etc.

Here's another issue if the DOP owns the footage if there is no agreement stating otherwise, does he have to actually operate the camera? What if there is a DOP and an operator? The operator is the guy who actually "pushes the button" so does he now own all of the footage and not the DOP?

What about news photographers and video shooters, do they own the footage they shoot or does the TV station or newspaper? I shot news for a while and it was always understood that the station owns the footage because you are employed by them and they own and supply all of the equipment. If you where a stringer then I can see where the shooter would clearly own the footage since he is not employed by any one station and supplies all of his own gear.

Are we saying that if a DOP shoots a 200 million dollar feature film and there happens to be nothing in his contract that says the studio owns the footage. The DOP would end up owning a 200 million dollar feature film like Batman and would have the legal right to exploit it for financial gain?

That seems like a real stretch.

R,

PS: I congratulate you Will for ACTUALLY providing some case law.


Unless you are "Work for Hire" status, the photographer (in film can be considered a collaborative effort of the camera operator and the director of photography.) owns the copyright as soon as it is taken.

The contracts that operators and DP's sign state that you are working for the producers as an employee... you are officially "work for hire."
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#11 Mark Dunn

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:58 PM

English law is different and Serge may be aware of this.
Here copyright generally belongs to the creator, unless he is a salaried employee in which case it belongs to the employer. Presumably most DPs are self-employed and therefore do own their images in the first instance.
There may be debate as to who actually 'creates' a film image but it seems unlikely that a DP would not qualify.
This provision can be overridden by the terms of a contract, of course.
(Copyright, Design & Patent Act, 1988).
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#12 Stephen Williams

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:59 PM

Hi Richard,

A DOP is often paid a specific rate based on what the final use will be, if the producer misrepresented the final use of the material.....

Stephen
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#13 Richard Boddington

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 02:20 PM

I just find it incredible under any circumstances where a DOP could walk onto a film set where the camera rental has been paid for by some else, along with the film stock, location fee, catering, actors fees, props, insurance, etc etc etc. And is also being paid a salary by the producer no less, and then claim ownership of the footage :blink:

That is totally bizarre, now I'd love to see an example where a DOP successfully won the rights to a movie under that scenario.

R,
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#14 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 02:24 PM

Sorry but that's not true, the images belong to the person who paid for them, i.e. the producer or client.

R,

As long as the producer/client lives up to their end of the deal (i.e., pays the DP) , then this is true. But from what I understand, the DP technically owns the footage until he is paid for his services. In the case of steadicam, the rights are retained with the steadicam operator until he/she is paid.
I'm no lawyer, this is just what I've gathered over the years.
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#15 Stephen Williams

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 02:25 PM

I just find it incredible under any circumstances where a DOP could walk onto a film set where the camera rental has been paid for by some else, along with the film stock, location fee, catering, actors fees, props, insurance, etc etc etc. And is also being paid a salary by the producer no less, and then claim ownership of the footage :blink:

That is totally bizarre, now I'd love to see an example where a DOP successfully won the rights to a movie under that scenario.

R,


Hi,

EU law is very strong on the matter, I understand that where a DOP gave a price to shoot a 30 second commercial, then further money has been sucessfully demanded when other versions were made. All depends on what is agreed in the deal memo.

Producer "we dont have any money, there will only be one version & it will air for 1 week, will you work for half your normal rate......."

Producer "It's a spec spot, will you do it free, then when we get the contract we will use you.......They liked the spot so much that they will use it. You agreed to work for free"

You get what you pay for, as in any contract, it's really very simple.

Stephen
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#16 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 02:43 PM

I'd love to see an example where a DOP successfully won the rights to a movie under that scenario.

R,

I'd love to see it too if the producer is a scumbag and tried to screw the DP and/or crew.
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#17 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 02:49 PM

I'd love to see it too if the producer is a scumbag and tried to screw the DP and/or crew.


That kinda happened to me... F900 got fried and the producer tried to take it out of my pay. I sent a nice brief notice of copyrighted material not authorized to the client and their client's client. Yes three tiers of clients, explaining that they should be aware that copyrights are only transfered upon payment in full. That producer paid me the full invoice plus my late fees the next day.
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#18 Serge Teulon

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 03:26 PM

Hey Richard,

Its just as Mark mentioned.

I did actually have a scenario where production were, for some reason, being difficult with supplying images to me for my reel.
I contacted a lawyer that specialises in media law and his words were, as I hadn't yet signed the rights over to production and had been the person that 'pushed the button'. Then the images belong to me.

The same applies with still photography. I took it, it's mine.

I'm surprised to hear that in the US its not like that.
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#19 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 04:05 PM

Well actually the focus-puller pushes the button most of the time :P

Not the same, although it is necessary, it falls under the technical movements to maintain proper operation of machinery.

Hey Richard,

Its just as Mark mentioned.

I did actually have a scenario where production were, for some reason, being difficult with supplying images to me for my reel.
I contacted a lawyer that specialises in media law and his words were, as I hadn't yet signed the rights over to production and had been the person that 'pushed the button'. Then the images belong to me.

The same applies with still photography. I took it, it's mine.

I'm surprised to hear that in the US its not like that.


We should move away from the term 'pushed the button' and refer to composition as an operator and expose as a DP. There for we are not talking about mechanical terms of operating machinery but rather truly artistic choices by trained technicians that are also creatively aesthetic.
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#20 Walter Graff

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 05:10 PM

From http://cpm.aiga.org/...ectual_property

Work-for-hire
This is also called ?work made for hire.? It refers to original work made by an employee, in which copyright ownership automatically belongs to the employer. It can also refer to original work made by an independent contractor or a design firm, in which copyright ownership might automatically belong to the client, but only under certain limited conditions. If your work doesn?t meet all of the criteria, copyright will belong to you unless you assign it to your client. The work must be specially ordered or commissioned, a written agreement must be signed saying that it is a work made for hire, and the work must fall within one of the following nine categories:

  • A work that is part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work (such as a website or a multimedia project)
  • A contribution to a collective work (such as a magazine, an anthology or an encyclopedia)
  • A translation
  • A supplement prepared as an adjunct to a work created by another author (such as a foreword, an appendix or charts)
  • A compilation (a new arrangement of preexisting works, such as a database)
  • An instructional text (whether it is literary, pictorial or graphic)
  • A test
  • Answer material for a test
  • An atlas
As for music, technically it is illegal to use it without permission, especially if it is to sell your services. To me, to say everyone does it is like me asking if I can use one or two shots of your reel to help make mine look better. I just need them to tie it all up for me if you don't mind. It's only two shots.

As for corporate stuff, I would steer clear of using any of it as companies do not take lightly the use of anything internal. Bottom line is, if you are unsure, it's probably best not to use it.
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Opal

Wooden Camera

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