I am working at a Multimedia Production placement for my college course for a company that wants a promotional video. I shot about 4 hours of video.

They believe claim that I have no right to use the raw footage that I shot for anything (including my own portfolio) and that they have the right to full access of the raw & audio footage that I shot.

In order to avoid escalating the situation, I didn't say anything because right now, I am the sole holder of all the raw footage files.

They want to be able to use the footage I shot for their projects in the future and I doubt credit will be given to me for the footage.

Do I have the right to put a watermark on the footage before I give it to them? Do they have the right to the raw footage, or ONLY the finished product which I am producing for them?

I signed a generic contract when I went into this placement, but the form mentioned nothing about media (as this is a hospital). So what is the default rule of thumb about the rights to this footage?

I am not sure if it makes a difference, but I am in Canada

  • 1
    Albeit this a legal question and should be addressed by an attorney familiar with all the details of your case, it is an interesting question, and I am curious about the outcome.
    – filzilla
    Mar 7, 2012 at 19:15
  • 1
    If this is work done for a college course, your college might own the rights. Jan 18, 2014 at 16:39

4 Answers 4


I am not a lawyer, but I played one on TV.

If the contract wasn't specific then you might have some wiggle room. Typically contract law (varies by state) says that if the contract is unclear then it favors the person who didn't write it. So if they provided you an unclear contract it favors you when it isn't clear.

Unfortunately if they hired you to create the "work" of the footage, then it may be a "work for hire":

A "work made for hire" is— (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. (17 U.S.C. § 101)

Read up on work for hire, but generally speaking, unless the contract states otherwise, if you are hired / contracted to create something, the party paying you owns your work.

BTW, to be a work for hire doesn't mean they paid you cash. They could be paying you in work experience.

  • That's not exactly how "work for hire" works. There must be a written agreement that explicitly declares the independent contractor's work as "work for hire." See U.S. Copyright Office circular 9: copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf Jan 13, 2019 at 1:16
  • That is basically what my citation says, but thanks for the additional resources. Jan 31, 2019 at 7:44

Unless you/they have a contract which states that it was a" work for hire" and they have ownership of the raw media, the videographer or photographer owns the rights to the raw footage. The client has paid for the finished product, but that is all, and it is questionable if they even have the right to take excerpts from or re-edit it without your permission, or given a right of first refusal. The client is not the creator, the person who shot it, the production company or, if single videographer, is.

  • 1
    So the contract has to explicitly state that the raw footage (camera originals) created are "work for hire"? In other words this is not simply implied when you're contracted to shoot footage and edit it into a deliverable final cut?
    – Crowder
    Sep 30, 2014 at 20:16
  • @Crowder that is correct, it is not "work for hire" if there is not a contract saying that you are being officially hired to perform the work. Jan 13, 2019 at 1:16

It appears this question is not relevant for this group as it is about a legal matter, I am not qualified nor would anyone here be expected to be able to give you legal advice. I recommend that you seek legal counsel from an attorney that practices copyright, trade mark or intellectual property law in Canada.

You might start by looking for firms that provide pro-bono services to students such as yourself.

Here is a link that might help: http://www.probono.net/

Be prepared to provide any and all documents you have signed with this employer, and any and all paper trails (emails, tweets, messages, letters, notes, etc) regarding any communications about your filming for this employer.


I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever directly worked in professional video production.

That said,

In a typical situation where, say, a cameraman is working for a production company which is then in turn being contracted by some other entity, the cameraman would likely have no rights to the footage he shoots, but there would probably be a clause in his contract that grants him the right to use footage in a portfolio.

The production company then negotiates with their client to decide if the client will own all raw footage at the conclusion of the project, or just the finished product.

If your situation doesn't have any contract in place that mentions ownership, well, that's not a situation I'd want to be in. If you are single-handedly being contracted to shoot, produce, and deliver a finished video to the company, then you may have rights to the footage. However, if the company is producing the video in-house and you are simply there to shoot for them, you probably don't have rights to the raw footage. On the other hand, if this is a placement for a college course, then it may actually be YOUR SCHOOL that owns the rights to your raw footage. You'll have to find that out.

You should NOT watermark anything unless you have signed something that specifically allows you to do so. This will just make people angry, and that's not good for anyone unless you're prepared to enter a costly legal battle.

The fact that you are holding all of the raw footage right now does not necessarily mean you have the rights to it.

Frankly, the fact that this is an academic placement (and therefore unpaid, I imagine) makes me think the "generic contract" you signed essentially means YOU do whatever THEY want, and you get a grade for it. End of story--they own the footage. And besides, when have you EVER seen cameramen credited on the footage they shoot? Only at the ends of feature films, and in the cameraman's own portfolio; never on a promotional video.

Nonetheless, I do believe you are justified in wanting to retain the use of your footage for your professional portfolio. If they are going to begrudge you that, I think you have a fair case to make as a student, and your advising professor should be able to vouch for you and bargain on your behalf.

  • I am the only producer/director
    – Graeme
    Mar 8, 2012 at 4:43

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