How to Maintain Legal Ownership of Your Marketing Video - dummies

How to Maintain Legal Ownership of Your Marketing Video

By Kevin Daum, Bettina Hein, Matt Scott, Andreas Goeldi

Video marketing is a collaborative process, but this collaboration can lead to arguments over ownership. Technically, the script of your video belongs to whoever wrote the script. The same concept applies when you’re shooting video: If you ask your next-door neighbor to hold the camera, for example, the footage she shoots may legally belong to her.

With nothing in writing to document, clarify, and establish ownership, the copyright belongs, by default, to the photographer (even though the physical footage does not). You can’t use the footage, therefore, without the copyright holder’s permission.

To maintain your ownership of a video and its script, everyone involved in your production must sign an independent contractor agreement.

This work-for-hire arrangement requires writers and camera operators, for example, to turn over ownership of their work products to you or your organization in exchange for agreed-to payments. Then you own the rights to the end product.

Failing to formalize a written agreement about the script leaves you open to copyright infringement litigation. In addition, a court may prevent you from showing your video — TV stations and Internet service providers (ISPs) may refuse to show it, and insurance companies may reject your application for liability insurance.

If you fail to properly document ownership before your script is complete, you have two options:

  • Buy the script from its author, using a script and copyright assignment that makes you the owner.

  • Negotiate with the author to give you the exclusive right to use the script in your film in exchange for compensation (usually, money).