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Who owns the footage when client doesnt pay


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#1 Jérôme Lafforgue

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 01:00 AM

Hi,

 

I'm not really well versed in the film/tv Industry I work more in the marketing side of digital media etc. However I often shoot a lot of video (but mostly stills)  mostly for small corp jobs etc usually just for the web.

 

I was recently ask to help out of a small project to make a TV pilot. An old friend whom I trust is the production manager. I was asked to bring video equipment ect and act as DOP for a small fee (mates rates) to help them get it off the ground and to be honest it was good experience as I have never worked on anything like this before.

 

Firstly yes I stupidly walked in with no contracts and really no idea how these things work. Lesson learned there. Being done as more as of a favor for a friend I really didnt even think about the contract side of things TBH.   The production has received all copies of the files as well as 100s of images (BTS etc). I have retained copies of everything as well.

 

At this point its looking like the client will not pay. My question is with no contracts and no payment do I have any rights at all to use the footage that I have copies of or even the right to request that they not use it until its paid for?

 

 

 


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 01:49 AM

You'd need to check Austrialian copyright law, but in theory you hold the copyright for the framing, since you haven't been paid under a worker for hire agreement and you haven't assigned.the copyright through a contract. However, enforcing that may be another matter and may depend on how much you value your friendship.Having handed over the files weakens your position, so you may end up having to pester the client directly with certain amount of bluff.


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#3 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 09:30 AM

Sorry to tell you that you,ll probably have to chalk it up to experience .. like probably every camera person on this forum I,ve also been stiffed on a shoot.. ownership of video footage anyway, seems to be not very straight forward compared to stills.. and even if you have the copyright in Australia ..your legal fee,s will be more than your payment and drag on for months/years..  its worth hassling to some degree.. but these people usually had no intention of paying you in the first place.. and know the law is on their side more than yours..  the anger does wear off after a while :)...


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#4 JD Hartman

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 09:36 AM

You may be in the legal right, however in these situations you probably don't have the money and time to enforce those rights in court.  Especially since you have nothing in writing.  Why did you turn over any images or media before being paid?


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#5 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 09:55 AM

The footage you've shot (but not been paid for) remains your intellectual property, however (odds are) the content captured in that footage remains the intellectual property of the creators.

This is a bit a weird no-man's-land copyright wise. You can certainly use the footage for your showreel (as promotional material for yourself), but not in any commercial manner (as you don't own the copyright to the content itself). This is really only safe copyright wise if you're simply cutting from clip to clip to show off the cinematography - that would basically fall under 'fair use', letting the scenes play out (and therefore showcasing the creators' intellectual property is a no-no.

 

If you refuse the production the right to use your footage until you've been paid for it. You're totally within your rights (as copyright protects you in that circumstance). As to enforcing that though, well that'll be up to you (lodging copyright claims on youtube/vimeo etc. if they upload it online).


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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 11:18 AM

Well as usual...we need a lawyer on this forum, same as we need an expert in US immigration law :)

 

R,


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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 12:19 PM

Why did you turn over any images or media before being paid?


That's pretty normal though, right? You invoice after the job is done or fill out a time card and then you hope to get paid in 30 days. Luckily, I haven't been burned too often, but usually 1-3 jobs a year end up not paying after the work is done. Usually, I'm too busy to even notice until it's way too late.

The only good thing is that if this happens to a big crew, then you can all band together to pressure the production company. In that case, you probably want the oldest grumpiest key grip on your side as most of 'em are pretty badass pipe hittin' mofos when pissed off. :)
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#8 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 02:07 PM

Chances are, if you done the work under a contract - then the contract should stipulate who owns the material. The reality is, even if you're not paid the money agreed upon, it's likely the work is still the property of the person who contracted you to create it. You could refuse to give it to them if you haven't already, and then they'd have to take you to court. Likely the court would still require you to turn over the material to them, though they would be forced to pay the contracted amount. If they fail to pay it, there are avenues such as liens and such that can be used to get the money agreed upon.

 

Alternatively, if you already gave it to them, then you'd need to file a lawsuit for breach of contract. The court will demand they pay you. If they don't you can pursue liens and garnishments against them to recover your due. 


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 30 April 2016 - 02:08 PM.

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#9 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 02:29 PM

I agree with Robin.  Definitely make an issue to get paid, but also take it as a learning experience.  Always get something on paper (and make sure you retain a copy of it) before you shoot a frame.


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#10 JD Hartman

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 03:36 PM

That's pretty normal though, right? You invoice after the job is done or fill out a time card and then you hope to get paid in 30 days. Luckily, I haven't been burned too often, but usually 1-3 jobs a year end up not paying after the work is done. Usually, I'm too busy to even notice until it's way too late.

The only good thing is that if this happens to a big crew, then you can all band together to pressure the production company. In that case, you probably want the oldest grumpiest key grip on your side as most of 'em are pretty badass pipe hittin' mofos when pissed off. :)

 

Yes, on a "real" shoot.  This didn't sound like one from the get-go.

 

Better to work for clients than friends.


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#11 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 07:43 PM

Yes agree.. you will get a "nose" for the dodgy outfits.. and require payment before handing over rushes.. that was my main job as a loader in the 80,s on music video,s.. literally I had to hide the film cans on set,or lock in my car.. but the largest amount I got stuffed was from a big company that had been around for years.. but went bankrupt/was already when I was hired for a shoot !.. 

Its going to happen a couple of times in anyones career.. hopefully this is one of the few for you..  for longer shoots its a good idea to get paid installments during the shoot.. 


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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 12:06 AM

Landon gave us his expert advice, now where is Tyler with his law degree to give an opposing viewpoint?

 

R,


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#13 JD Hartman

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 06:06 AM

Landon gave us his expert advice, now where is Tyler with his law degree to give an opposing viewpoint?

 

R,

 

Was that really necessary? 

If anyone thinks that a degree in Business is the same as attending law school, it's that Ohio guy.


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#14 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 12:25 PM

You can make fun all you want, but the truth is I do know what I'm talking about. Perhaps that makes people mad, I don't really know... In fact, one really does not need a degree in anything to understands the basic concepts of court - such as 'if you violate my contract, I can sue you'. Just figured someone might like a more 'legal' opinion than just 'Chalk it up to experience and move on', since maybe he might actually like to re-claim that money he is due - and he is perfectly legally within his right to do so. There is no legal question about rather one can sue in this case, nor is there a question about rather he could attach liens or garnish wages and/or corporate income. Any first year law student can tell you that much (Hell, even most business students are taught that), and does not require one have a degree in anything - let alone be a lawyer.

 

Am I an expert? No. I have sued people before in the past, and I have been sued. So, I know what I'm talking about. If I was the original poster, I'd take my $100 down to the court house and file at least a small claims case against the producer - might be able to recoup up to $5,000 of it (jurisdiction dependent). Don't even need a lawyer for that. Producer don't have $5,000? Does he have a house? Attach a lien and watch how quick the money comes to you.

 

Anyone want to argue with that advice? If so, I'd really like to hear a better comeback than 'Just chalk it up to experience'. If everyone in the business world chalked everything up to experience, we'd all be broke. And yes, I know... 'Filmmaking is art, man.... Not business...'


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 01 May 2016 - 12:39 PM.

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#15 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 01:17 PM

Was that really necessary? 
If anyone thinks that a degree in Business is the same as attending law school, it's that Ohio guy.


Can we all please stop with the personal attacks?? Jesus.
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#16 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 01:50 PM

You can make fun all you want, but the truth is I do know what I'm talking about. Perhaps that makes people mad, I don't really know... In fact, one really does not need a degree in anything to understands the basic concepts of court - 

 

How are you not a billionaire by now?

 

R,


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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 01:52 PM

 If I was the original poster, I'd take my $100 down to the court house and file at least a small claims case against the producer - might be able to recoup up to $5,000 of it (jurisdiction dependent). Don't even need a lawyer for that. Producer don't have $5,000? Does he have a house? Attach a lien and watch how quick the money comes to you.

 

Well for starters, in addition to being a leading US legal expert, are you also an expert in Australian law as well?

 

Or are you assuming that the Australian legal system works the same as the US system does?

 

R,


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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 01:54 PM

 

Was that really necessary? 

If anyone thinks that a degree in Business is the same as attending law school, it's that Ohio guy.

 

Yes actually, and I can't wait for Tyler to chime in with his expertise on Australian law. :)

 

R,


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#19 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 02:17 PM

Am I an expert? No. I have sued people before in the past, and I have been sued. So, I know what I'm talking about. If I was the original poster, I'd take my $100 down to the court house and file at least a small claims case against the producer - might be able to recoup up to $5,000 of it (jurisdiction dependent). Don't even need a lawyer for that. Producer don't have $5,000? Does he have a house? Attach a lien and watch how quick the money comes to you.

 

Anyone want to argue with that advice?

 

Yes... 

 

Anyone can head down to court and do what you suggested, but things are rarely as black & white as you make them out to be.  It's not all dollars and cents.  If the sum total is a decent amount of money, sure - you sue (which should be the last, not the first resort) if they refuse to release your funds.  But if it's some measly amount, then yes, you may indeed decide to chalk it all up to experience. For example, who knows who else was on that shoot that may have some real connections that you could use in the future?  It could be that that person was also doing the producer "a favor" for the day.  Then you decide to sue for whatever your day-rate was and the word gets around about that.  Definitely not the kind of reputation you want to start out with.  There are tons of politics involved, so yes - you weigh everything carefully.

 

And yes, I know... 'Filmmaking is art, man.... Not business...'

 

Actually, it's supposed to be both.


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#20 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 02:20 PM

 

Well for starters, in addition to being a leading US legal expert, are you also an expert in Australian law as well?

 

Or are you assuming that the Australian legal system works the same as the US system does?

 

R,

 

Most English-speaking countries follow a very similar common-law approach pioneer by England. Australia HAS small claims courts just like we do in the states. The procedures to bring a case are almost identical as they are in many US States. Of course in Australia, each province is governed by it's own small claims laws and courts, much like US States - so without knowing his province it's not possible to give EXACT information. 

 

I can point him to an example though, which is probably similar across most of Australia: http://www.magistrat...-6994-1097-9582

That link points out that a civil case can be filed without an an attorney in Western Australia with a small fee payable online by credit card, and also by completing an online claims form.

 

You see, one of the great things about a degree in business is that it does now necessarily mean we know every law in existence... What it does gives us though is the power to research and understand the laws as they apply. It literally took me 5 minutes to come up with these results. No degree required. 


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