3-4 Different Entities… Who Owns the Video Footage Rights?

In a commercial video production you may have 3 or 4 different entities working on the video project: Client, Ad-Agency, Production Company, and one or more Free-Lancers. The following article is a real life example of the confusion that can take place over ownership rights to the video. The names have been changed to protect the parties involved.

Digital Rights Management by Nimia


In February client, T-Mobile, hired an ad-agency, Publicis, who then hired RedKiss production company, who then hired John Bovi, a freelancer, to shoot content for the project. John’s duties were purely executional.

Unknown to John there was a written contract agreed between T-Mobile, Publicis and RedKiss that gave T-Mobile all rights to the work and kept the work confidential until release in June. John did not sign a contract nor was he informed in anyway way of a written agreement. In March John used unused footage he had shot and created his own edit and contacted some architecture firms. John also uploaded it to Vimeo. The film found quick success and hit 10K views on Vimeo. The client T-Mobile was not happy and wanted it taken down.

Who owns the rights to the video?

Who owns the rights to the video?  This may surprise you but John owns the rights to the video. John owns the rights because he never signed an agreement giving up those rights. Remember, the person holding the camera owns the copyright in the work they shoot unless there was a written agreement that they sign stating otherwise.

Business Relations Considerations:

Aside from legal rights, there are also business relation issues to consider.  If John snubs his nose at T-Mobile/Publicis/RedKiss and informs the group of John’s valid legal rights to the video, then T-Mobile/Publicis/RedKiss may or may not hire John ever again. John will need to weigh this business risk.

If you’d like to talk to an attorney about video rights and ownership, or other legal issues surrounding video production, contact [email protected] and we can set up a short phone call.

By accessing and reading this blog, you acknowledge and understand that no attorney-client relationship has been formed and you further acknowledge and understand that this blog is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice and counsel requires a fact-specific analysis of your particular issues, and you should thus obtain legal advice directly and individually from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, if appropriate.

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