Legal question - wedding videography and dubs

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by Porter L. Versfelt III, Jul 12, 2003.

  1. Here's a question a buddy of mine just posed and I don't know the best answer
    because I don't specialize in wedding videos ...

    As commercial still photographers have practiced for generations, can / do
    wedding VIDeographers own the original tapes and ALL reproduction rights to
    what they shoot? Or is what they do for a client a work-for-hire and the
    clients get the original tape? I'm not talking about non-wedding shoots, I
    already state in my contract for corporate clients that I own the original
    video rights (unless the tapes show something secret or proprietary) and so far
    no client has had a problem with that.

    Traditionally, wedding STILL photographers make good money making copies of the
    photos that they shoot. They own and keep the original negatives.

    My videographer friend wants to ensure that his wedding clients get dubs
    through him exclusively. I have told him the best way in my opionion is to do
    this indirectly, rather than cause a rucous up front by ...

    1) Stating in the contract that the client is prohibited from making dubs of
    the original or edited VHS tapes and DVDs.

    2) Encrypt the DVD so clients cannot make copies. (But how to prevent them from
    making analog VHS copies?)

    3) Tell the clients verbally and in writing that they will always get the best
    quality VHS and DVD dubs if the videographer makes them from the original field
    tapes or the master edited tapes.

    Have I missed anything in my advice?

    Also, which vendors have the best quality and least expensive software for
    encrypting DVD's to prevent copying?

    Porter Versfelt III
    Lighting Cameraman, Producer/Director, Writer
    Versfelt Communications Group, Inc.
    Atlanta, Georgia - USA
    678-469-6224 / / E-mail:
    (Ask about our new remote production truck!)
    Porter L. Versfelt III, Jul 12, 2003
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  2. Porter L. Versfelt III

    David McCall Guest

    This is just a personal opinion, not a legal one.

    It all depends on your original agreement. If you are selling a
    manufactured product, then all the client will recieve is a print
    of the product. You can specify how many copies they want,
    and how much additional copies will cost. In this case, you
    don't talk about tape cost, hourly rates, etc., but the client
    has the right to refuse to accept the final product, just in case
    you screw it up. You can have a nonrefundable deposit though.

    If they pay you for 6 hours of labor, camera rental, editgn time,
    reimbursables, (tape, parjking, etc.), then they own what they
    paid for. You get paid for the shoot, and hand over the tapes at
    the end of the day. Editing is a separate job, but again, if they
    are buying tape and editing time, then they own that tape and
    it's contents.

    At least that is where I draw the line.

    David McCall, Jul 12, 2003
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  3. I believe copyright law says the creator of original material owns the
    copyright to the material. Unless you are an employee of a wedding
    production company and are doing work for hire for them, or are an
    independent videographer with a clause in your client's agreement giving
    reproduction rights to the client, you own that particular copyright. You
    own it even if you give the client your master (not wise if you want to sell
    copies) but you have the right to prevent them from making copies without
    your permission. If you don't want to spend the money for a legal opinion,
    Nolo Press has several good books on intellectual property law written by
    lawyers in actual English. That's a better place to find the answers to
    questions like these than newsgroups.

    As a practical matter, if you want good client relations and referrals, why
    don't you include as part of your wedding package price 10 VHS or DVD copies
    with additional copies available for so much a copy? Much better than making
    the bride feel like she's signing some legal copyright document with you.
    Actually, never ask a client to sign something. Even that sounds legal. Ask
    them to OK it instead as you give them a pen and point to the dotted line.

    Best regards,
    Craig Scheiner
    Executive Producer
    CPS Associates
    Video Production and Publication
    Craig Scheiner, Jul 12, 2003
  4. Porter L. Versfelt III

    lr Guest

    Sometimes you fighting a losing battle tell clients not to make copies for
    others that want it. It is hard to control, especially wedding videos. I
    normal do not make copies, I let the wedding client figure that one out. I
    do make the wedding client an extra copy though.
    lr, Jul 12, 2003
  5. Porter L. Versfelt III

    Joe Guest

    Here is what I have come to understand:

    Typically the videographer owns the rights to any video material he or she
    has created. Any footage taken is considered 'original works'. Unless a
    written contract exists specifically stating otherwise these rights are not

    A videographer may have a verbal or written contract to provide the original
    tape or a copy of it to the wedding couple by a given date. This does not
    waive the rights to the 'original works.'

    When a person is an employee or an apprentice of a videographer the rights
    to the original works stay with the videographer unless it is otherwise
    stated by way of a written contract.

    Conventionally when you release a 'viewer' copy of the original works you
    have to assume it will be copied and so you have to build this into your
    'marketing' plan.

    Using Macrovision or any form of copy protection may be costly and not

    Making a DVD copy with high compression or VHS copy usually degrades the
    quality enough to discourage dubbing of the viewer copy.

    Perhaps it is better to add a 'commercial' to your tape promoting your
    business and encouraging the viewer to contact you for a higher quality copy
    of your original could also add your own 'station ID' in the
    lower 3rd...

    Joe, Jul 13, 2003
  6. Porter L. Versfelt III

    Medwyn Guest

    This is really good advice if you are trying to kill your business.
    Medwyn, Jul 13, 2003
  7. Porter L. Versfelt III

    Joe Guest

    It is a quite normal for photographers to include a graphic or signature in
    their proofs and finished photos.

    A small tasteful graphic overlay in the lower 3rd is actually a very good
    idea. I have seen it in practice and was quite impressed.

    Self promotion is the key to success. Each wedding video (if its any good)
    should provide info on where you can be's wedding parties
    are tomorrow's Bride and Groom.

    There is no money in dubbing wedding videos.....especially when dudes like
    Medwyn do it with the boss's equipment for free...
    Joe, Jul 13, 2003
  8. Porter L. Versfelt III

    David McCall Guest

    Yes, I think the term commercial is a little strong. A page or 2 of text at the
    end would be OK though. I'm not sure about the overlay either. Might be
    offensive to some. By the time you get it subtle enough, it wouldn't do you much good.
    David McCall, Jul 13, 2003
  9. Porter L. Versfelt III

    Medwyn Guest

    Ever heard of "word-of-mouth"?

    I get a lot of that - in fact, it's where ALL of my business comes from. I
    have never had to advertise, because my clients are always happy with my
    work and they tell their friends.

    Frankly, if you have to put contact information on your videos, it tells me
    a lot about how happy your customers must be...
    Hmm - you would know this how?

    Maybe you're the one using the boss's equipment? Probably, since I'm sure
    you can't afford your own.
    Medwyn, Jul 14, 2003
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