March 13, 2016 at 8:08PM


Does Artist own free music video we shot?

I own a music magazine which approached an artist to shoot their video to feature on our companies YouTube channel. Now the artist wants to be paid for the advertising money we've made, has threatened us with legal action, reuploaded the work to their channel, removing our logo and creates copywrite claims on the video and song on our YouTube channel.

- we approached the artist, this was not a work for hire, we were not paid
- artist accepted the pro-Bono music video production, I would think this implys use of the recording (I'm not sure how you shoot a music video without using the recording)
- artist agreed to upload the video to our channel (I have written proof of this but not a contract)

Since the song has become a hit, the artist claims they did not know it would have become a hit song and they served to have made money from the video. They feel entitled to the money we have made from the video. I do not feel this was since the production was my companies investment.

I am familiar with copyright law and from my understanding we own the rights to the video since we were the creators of the video, we're not hired and were not compensated. We do not own the copyright to the recording but as I said she gave permission for us to upload and I feel the use of a song is implied in a music video.

My question is, do we own the work and are we protected? Should I counter claim the artists claim on the vidoe and song on our YouTube channel? And should I flag the artists channel for reuploading our work?

I hope you can provide some insight. I have asked several other lawyers and they pretty much tell me "we should have got a contract" which isn't helpful and I know now since this video is from multiple years ago.

Thanks in advance!


Unless explicitly specified otherwise you own the recording but you do not own the performance, the song and neither the lyrics. I assume the artist performed original work otherwise the whole issue becomes way more complicated, as you would have needed a synchronization license to publish such a video.

Also just because you get permission to publish something on YouTube does not imply you can monetize it and make all the money!

If you made money from the video I would think it is only fair to try to come to an agreement as to the percentage the performer and owner of the song will get. All of you folks made a creative contribution, the cooperation actually worked, share the benefits and stay positive!

Get together and try to work it out between yourselves or get a mediator that can guide the parties to a fair solution.

March 13, 2016 at 9:52PM, Edited March 13, 9:58PM

Cary Knoop

>>>Get together and try to work it out between yourselves or get a mediator that can guide the parties to a fair solution.

I agree with Cary. Try and work this out without getting lawyers involved. If there is no contract and you were not paid, then you own the footage, but you don't own the performance.

It sounds like you need to create a simple licensing document where you grant the artist a free perpetual license to use your footage, and the artist grants you a free perpetual license to use the footage you shot of their performance.

If you can't come to some kind of agreement, then neither of you will be able to use the footage, and you will probably have to get a lawyer involved to enforce this.

March 14, 2016 at 10:29AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

If you shot it and no contract stated otherwise, you own the rights to the video (not the song) and they can not use it without your permission. That said, you have monetized the video And Their song, which you did not have permission to do. If they uploaded your video to their channel, try to work out a deal where you agree to not publish the video in its entirety or use their song (this leaves you reel material at least) and they agree not to use Your video.

Worst case they may also want a percentage of the money you've made on their song (which is their right), and you should be prepared to negotiate a fair sum.

(Any music You recorded on-set you can use though; if it was a live performance for instance. A staged music video would be hard for them to argue was shot without their consent. This does not mean you can monetize it though- but you would be able to publish the video in its entirety)

March 15, 2016 at 11:09AM, Edited March 15, 11:14AM

Tobias N
Director of Photography

You wrote:

"Worst case they may also want a percentage of the money you've made on their song (which is their right), and you should be prepared to negotiate a fair sum."

I differ that that is the worst case. I think that is the fair and morally right case!

Cary Knoop

March 15, 2016 at 11:34AM

If you used a pre-recorded music track you'd need a license agreement to use it on the video, especially if you're using it for a commercial purpose. Did the artist know you were going to monetize the work they participated in?

Now think of it the other way around, if the artist asked you to collaborate on a video, which they then monetized and made a lot of money out of, would you like to be compensated for your work?

March 15, 2016 at 1:09PM

Sebastian Kammonen

If you plan on monetizing or using content for a commercial purpose, I'm saying not a showreel or advertisement, but a video that will directly make money through monetization or through people purchasing it, all parties involved should probably discuss the process before hand.

Sebastian Kammonen

March 15, 2016 at 1:11PM

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