I have a client that I did some editing for. He shot the footage, and I edited it. I should also mention that he was a friend that I started helping out!
Anyways, the project was a reality show he was trying to get the networks to buy in to. So I edited it making the “star” look like a jerk, then a family guy, then a greedy guy, then back to an ass/family guy, etc. I turned the story every which way I could! This went on for a year with changes after changes after changes. Finally I told him that I didn’t have the time to do this anymore since I was doing it as a favor. He told me that if I edited 10 episodes he would pay me $X. So, I did it. I sent him a DVD for approval, and then I didn’t hear from him. I trusted him (my mistake for trusting even a friend). I guess the lesson is payment enough!
I emailed him and said if he wasn’t going to pay me then I was gonna use the project for my online and DVD demo reel. He replied to that with threats of lawyers and stealing his material, etc! Well, I have the original tapes, email correspondence where he said he would pay me. He said he would pay me himself if he couldn’t get the cash from his client.
Now I am trying to get him to pay up again, and it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen. So my question is…can I legally use his footage in my demo reel? I edited the work, and I even have the master tapes. If I post it online, can he sue me? Is a threat of a lawyer just an idle threat? I never signed a non-disclosure, or any contract! I have sent invoice after invoice.
In fact, he told me that the client was gonna pay him for the work, but didn’t want to give the client the DVD cause he is afraid that the client will release it and screw over my “friend”. Should I contact his client and go around my “friend”? Tell him I will send the DVD if the pays the invoice?
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Just have a 15 minute consultation with a lawyer. You'll quickly figure out the way to proceed.
You can also take him to small claims court without needing an attorney. Sometimes that'll be enough to get them to pay. I think you can sue him for up to $5000 this way."Quality is cool, but don't forget... Content is King!"
My understanding: You will be committing a copyright violation if you use it without his permission. It doesn't matter that he owes you money. So you can sue him for not paying you. He can sue you if you use the video.
I took criminal justice in college, in the absence of a written signed contract your agreement is basically void. If he never intended to pay you that would constitute fraud on his part. In regards to your use of his materials, assuming he filmed them and then sent them to you for editing, they are still his and would need his permission to release them for use. This is a case I'd like to see on Judge Judy. Usually you do have to take them to small claims court (theft of time / resources / fraud) , get a judgement and then have the money court ordered from his check.
I'd go around the non-friend, and try to deal with the client directly. You probably can't actually sell it, since the non-friend shot it, but it might put the transaction back in motion.
Is there any copyright notice on the video at all?
Is there any proof that he shot the video all on his own and that it was not entirely or partially created by you?
Does he have kids? Send them a St. Bernard puppy.
Life is a series of learning experiences. There are many, many more like him out there. Choose your friends more carefully.
"Just another sheep boy, duck call, swan
song, idiot son of donkey kong - Julian Cope"
you cant use the footage, its the clients even though he didn't or hasn't paid. Just contact the client direct and proceed from there.
just remember, you gotta eat and pay bills to
Threatening is not the way to get people to pay. If you didn't get a written contract this could be a cheap lesson for you.
The best way of preventing this is to have a contract with many intermediate milestones where you get paid after each milestone. If the client doesn't pay -- you stop working. This way you are only out a small amount of time/money if the client flakes. I usually also structure the contract so that either party can terminate the contract at any time. Any work done prior to termination has to be paid for. They get to keep all work completed up until that termination.
Clients are happy that they can see intermediate results in a short period of time. They're also happy that they can terminate the contract if they're not happy with your work. They may not be happy that you can quit at any time (I never have) but it's only fair that if they can terminate, so can you. They usually agree to that.
Last edited by jagabo; 9th Jun 2010 at 11:24.
FYI, contracts still don't mean shit. Even winning a suit doesn't mean anything.
Get the money up front.
If the client doesn't want to pay for it, then he can go elsewhere. It's simple, really.
For the future, you should always agree on a price up front; ask for a down-payment at the start; then when the project is completed, demand for the remainder BEFORE you hand over the finished materials. Legitimate businesses may deal with purchase orders, but for individuals, you have to get the cash in hand.
When it comes to money transactions, trust no one.
You may also need to examine your sense of judgment in choosing "friends."
I am no lawyer but some situations are usually common in all countries. On this side of the pond a contract can exist verbally as well as in writing. Your 'friend' would have agreed that in return for your services there would have been some form of payment.
Copyright law will mean you have no right to use the footage as you were not the original creator of it. However, you do own a 'lien' over it as you have done some work and your contract, as long as payment was established at the begining, has not been fulfilled.
If your 'friend' is anxious to get his footage back I am sure a way can be found to clear this up.
If you're talking about a substantial amount of money you should consider consulting an attorney licensed in Texas. Otherwise you might want to just consider it a learning experience. I'm not licensed in Texas but in the Carolina's so I can't give you any specific legal advice. Nor do I practice any IP/copyright. But if video production were my business I would definitely get a contract and if possible as much money up front as possible. Both of which have already been mentioned. An alternative that would prevent the client from profiting from the video until you had been paid would be to have an assignment of the rights in video to you in the contract until you are paid in full. This would allow you to seek in injunction to prevent us of the video by anyone. This effectively gives you a security interest in the video. This is just my two cents and may not be worth anything. Like I said, not licensed in Texas or practice in IP. Just saying what I would do.