January 5, 2015 at 11:46AM

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What to do when client requests raw video files from shoot

I have a client who is asking for the raw video files from her wedding. That's a lot of footage and I'm not sure what exactly to do about the situation.

32 Comments

I would use wetransfer or some sort of combination between a bunch of file sharing sites. I've also used Google drive, I have a few gmail accounts and they each include 15gb of storage, not alot when it comes to video but make sure you tell client they have so many days to access footage before you delete it. You have options, some free and some paid.

January 6, 2015 at 6:26AM

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Luis Garcia
Director/Editor
542

I would not recommend using a online file-transfer service because of the size of the files and how long it will take to upload and download the files. Instead I would purchase a portable external drive like the Western Digital My Passport drives ( 1 - 3 TB in size ) and either mail, courrier, or have your client pick-up the drive from you.

Obviously you would charge for the cost of the drive, along with a fee to license the footage you shot. At all times you would retain ownership of the video files, and would be granting your client a license to use your footage for their own purposes. You might want to spell out how your footage can be used in a simple contract and have your client sign this contract.

The contract may seem unnecessary, but imagine if your client wants to become a wedding videographer ( or their nephew does ) and plans on using your footage as part of their own wedding video business. Or they want to sell the video to a video-stock house. It may seem silly, but I would make sure that you retain ownership of your footage unless your client want to buy ownership, and then you would charge them a significant fee to own the rights to the footage. ( with photography, ownership rights are often priced as much as the cost of the original shoot, so this might apply for video too )

January 6, 2015 at 10:20AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33609

Your client is reasonable in asking for their footage. After all, it's their faces in the frame, their family, their moments. It's not like you can sell the footage to Getty or on Pond5. A wedding is a personal event and the client, the groom is asking for the raw material. She's really asking for the moments NOT in the final video. She may not want them in the DVD version, but she may want them. It's human. This is not a commercial client or advertising agency, where traditional "cover-your-ass" rules apply.
I think it's normal to consider charging a little extra on every project to store such material, in case the client needs to dig into the footage. Sending your wedding client this footage on a hard drive (in my own opinion) should not warrant asking for $100 extra to buy a hard drive and send them files. I think it should be included in the price from the get-go. If you're not charging enough for even this, you're not charging enough. Absorb the cost and keep them happy so they refer you. Because it's always about the next one.

January 6, 2015 at 5:23PM

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Sathya Vijayendran
Writer/Director/Editor
301

As I have always understood copyright, if you are 'employed' full time (taxed at source etc) then your employer owns copyright to everything you produce. If you are a freelance/contractor, commissioned ad hoc, and unless in writing you pass copyright to the person/company commissioning you, YOU own copyright. I have spent over 40 years shooting pictures and video on that basis. And I own the copyright to my art, my work and from my labour.
Unless you had a contract with the bride/groom, whoever paid the bill, that accepted they received copyright at the end of the job..... Another point about the one time a commercial client asked for 'all' files, they were given copies to do with as they pleased and I got to use the originals as I pleased.

January 7, 2015 at 2:55AM

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Peter Baylis
Photographer/Videographer
29

Peter, I believe you are incorrect in your assertion that if you are hired as a contractor that you "own" the "copyright" to the content you shot. By law, if you were hired (and paid) as an independent sub-contractor to document the wedding event and possibly provide an edited version of the wedding event you documented, the ownership of the copyright, video masters, the content contained therein as well as the final edited version(s) all belong to the party that contracted and paid you for that service. It was their event and you were there by their contractual request. You can't just automatically assume that you own the copyright to a captured personal event when you were contracted to be there and perform a service, i.e., video the event and edit the obtained video as a result of you performing your contracted service. Hopefully the price of a hard drive and your transfer time is built into your services contract.

However, if you just happened upon an event or location and began shooting video, you would correctly own the copyright and masters to the footage you shot and edited after the fact.

That being said, if your service for hire contract specifically states that you are automatically conferred the ownership of the copyright, then legally you can own that copyright. I can't imagine blindly giving any videographer blanket copyright ownership to the captured video circumstances of my event that I contracted out to be documented. It defies common sense and copyright law, it would be my intellectual property, not the hired contractor.

According to the Copyright Law of the United States of America Chapter 2(b) - http://copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.html

§ 201 . Ownership of copyright

(a) Initial Ownership. — Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work. The authors of a joint work are coowners of copyright in the work.

(b) Works Made for Hire. — In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.

Alpine Video

January 7, 2015 at 4:25PM

Alpine - Hired Professionals

There is often confusion about who owns the photographs of a professional hired to photograph an event, such as a wedding. Prior to 1978 many courts ruled that a hired "author" of a photograph was an employee and thus the person who hired the photographer and paid for her services owned the images. In 1979 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals hired under those circumstances did not meet the requirements to qualify as an employee. Consequently, the photographer owns the copyright to the images and can set restrictions on how they are used.

taken from: http://info.legalzoom.com/photography-copyright-laws-20505.html

From what I understand the same applys to video.

Its a very grey area and has been for ages. Photographer/Videographer don't fall under work for hire because most often you are coming up with the "story" and creating the material. Not Following a script. The script writer is the copyright holder, in most cases that is the Director (Videographer)

Unless you abuse the use of the footage, generally the courts side with the creative.

Josh Wilkinson

January 9, 2015 at 8:06AM

...But generally you want to avoid having to go to court to stop somebody from doing something with the footage that you shot, so spelling this out in a licensing agreement is a quick and inexpensive way to make sure that you don't end up in court one day.

January 7, 2015 at 8:14AM, Edited January 7, 8:14AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33609

I allow my clients to take their raw footage if they choose. Its really no skin of my nose, but if there are certain conditions that you want to enforce then do so in writing (preferably a contract). A good example is what was said above about someone else using your footage as an example of their work - just put in your contract that the footage is for personal viewing only and if used for other purposes then a charge may be levied.
When I give clients the footage I make it clear that its not part of the service that they've paid for, its a courtesy and they must provide me with a hard drive with however many GB necessary. I had thought about providing hard drives to clients but I don't want to be responsible for any defects a drive that I purchase might have. Drives will always fail and I don't want an email 6 months later saying "our drive stopped working". So give them the footage (under reasonable conditions) and have them drop off a hard drive with you and they can pick it up when its ready. If they're too far away get them to order a new drive to you (through amazon or what ever) and make them pay for returned signed-for postage.

January 7, 2015 at 12:02PM, Edited January 7, 12:02PM

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Mark Relf
Director, Editor
243

Just be clear on Copyright ownership, go to http://copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.html

January 7, 2015 at 4:27PM

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"Work for Hire" ( or "Works Made for Hire" ) is where new shooters can get burned if they don't realize that they own nothing under this type of employment.

Guy McLoughlin

January 7, 2015 at 4:57PM

If a client ask you for the Raw footage its up to your discretion unless you are hired fulltime to a production company in which case the footage belongs to that company. By yourself, you have the leverage to do what you want because the footage is yours!. You can give it away for free or have them pay for the raw footage or whatever you want to do, that's up to you.

January 7, 2015 at 9:49PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2912

I don't think you have any idea about contract law, copyright law or any law in particular it seems. You have no leverage to do anything with any raw footage you obtain while under a service-for-hire contract of employment. Let me put it another way; if you're hired to do a shoot but can't because your so busy and you sub-contract me to do the shoot for you; do I own the raw footage that I captured, to do with what I want or do I have to give it to you because you were the primary contracted hire? Do you own it if you didn't shoot it? That's why there's laws to protect intellectual property, y'all should pay attention to them. http://copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.html

Alpine Video

January 8, 2015 at 3:42PM

Footage that you shoot always belongs to you and only you. You have the rights to it, unless you give it away in your contract.

Henk Schillema

January 11, 2015 at 6:51AM, Edited January 11, 6:51AM

Ahhmm i have knowledge of the LAW for my country. I have rights to all the footage. My contract is iron clad. The final product for the client is the final edit and not the raw files so they have no right to it unless i decide that they do so aahhmm dont be arrogant and think you know it all. I did law In Uni and i have a lawyer so chill out, apparently you don't have a clue.

Wentworth Kelly

January 11, 2015 at 4:24PM

I'd go with it, and like Guy says, find a way to protect your end of it. Your job is to serve when you take on that responsibility and steward their money. Underpromise and overdeliver.

January 7, 2015 at 10:24PM

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When a client asks for the the raw files, I provide them. I ask for a hard drive. I sometimes charge .5 to 1 hour of editing time since it does take some time out of my day to look after it. The client must cover all shipping costs if there are any.

January 9, 2015 at 4:29AM

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Tom Abray
writer, videographer
370

Personally I would figure out what it is they are wanting out of getting the footage, whether its a part that didn't make the cut or something else. Explain that you generally don't give out raw material because of liability concerns. Most people are pretty reasonable.
If its just something that happened that you didn't include just give it separately. If they don't like your editing work, I would try and get a friend to cut it for you instead and/or give the couple a contract stating they wont use the footage for anything but personal use and just give it to them.

That's a very hard line to tread, I've heard a lot of horror stories about guys getting sued after giving up footage because the bride wasn't happy. That's why I rarely shoot weddings.

Also going to copy this here, as some people have mentioned copyright:
Hired Professionals

There is often confusion about who owns the photographs of a professional hired to photograph an event, such as a wedding. Prior to 1978 many courts ruled that a hired "author" of a photograph was an employee and thus the person who hired the photographer and paid for her services owned the images. In 1979 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals hired under those circumstances did not meet the requirements to qualify as an employee. Consequently, the photographer owns the copyright to the images and can set restrictions on how they are used.

taken from: http://info.legalzoom.com/photography-copyright-laws-20505.html

From what I understand the same applys to video.

Its a very grey area and has been for ages. Photographer/Videographer don't fall under work for hire because most often you are coming up with the "story" and creating the material. Not Following a script. The script writer is the copyright holder, in most cases that is the Director (Videographer)

Unless you abuse the use of the footage, generally the courts side with the creative.

January 9, 2015 at 8:13AM

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Josh Wilkinson
Music Video Director/DP
348

I actually have a clause in my contract that states that we deliver "edited video as final product - not raw files." I've just had a couple of clients that question this, and when I explain further I tell them I do not recommend getting the RAW footage. If they insist I mention I would be willing to sell everything (sometimes up to 350 or 400 GB) for about $1000.00. No one has bought it yet, and honestly, that's because I really don't want to sell it or give it away. Why? I think this is one of those little things that can hurt the professional image of my business. The reasoning behind "getting the raw footage" is that clients think they will get more material than what they are getting from their edited videos. I think our packages are designed to deliver most of what is 'usable' or 'watchable.' They want to see more video? They can upgrade to a more complete package. The most popular package, however, already has a couple of documentary edits (ceremony, special dances, toasts), a feature film, a highlights film, and any other part of the day that I can edit in documentary style (multi-cam edits for toasts, or first look, etc.). What is left after these edits is really just shaky footage or pieces that have no coherence.

Clients usually will ask for Raw footage if you are shooting documentary style all throughout the day, mainly for coverage (instead of moments). Selling it or giving it may work for some, but not so much for those shooting for shorter edits. What people expect when they ask for raw footage is a very long video, not hundreds of small clips.

I think it's in the right of the wedding videographer or cinematographer to refuse to give the RAW footage away and only deliver edits that will reflect the production value that he or she sells. The same way as photographers do not give the thousands of raw photos they take and make a selection before delivery.

January 10, 2015 at 1:00PM

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So this is different from the other comments about copyright, but when I've had people ask for this, I ask them what exactly they want, and I've discovered that most people don't want the raw footage, they basically want a modern form of a long video documenting their wedding, like a home video. So I offer instead a really long video with all the unedited takes one after the other, but then take out the beginning of clips where I often have my camera facing the ground, and take out parts where I'm talking to someone in the shot (it's endearing when it's your family member shooting, but not when it's your videographer). This could take a long time, so instead of doing it at the end, I mark in and out points of all my clips when I first start going through stuff so I have an hour-ish length sequence of everything that could ever be used in the final 3-5 minute video, which I then go through to start selecting what will be in the final, shorter video. It ends up helping me in the long run so I don't have to go through clips over and over again, and at the same time gives them something they want (I doubt they want to go through and watch the different videos, they want something they can pull up and watch for an hour with their families most of the time) without them thinking I'm a bad shooter just because I send them clips that are accidental record button toggling or something.

January 10, 2015 at 1:13PM

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If the client has paid in full and supplies a hard drive for the raw, it's all theirs.

January 10, 2015 at 2:16PM

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Justin Houtz
Designer/Developer/Filmmaker
88

The answer to this can be simple if you have good, clear communication from the start. If it is a commercial client, I charge the cost of the shoot and include a new hard drive in that price. If it is a wedding, which I only shoot 2-3 a year, I offer the raw video on a drive for only $50. The drive usually costs at least $100, but like Sathya pointed out, you should be charing enough to cover that and other unforeseen expenses. I will give you an example: Last summer, I did a wedding for and old work friend's sister, (in the news business, a producer like me) and everything went fine until they had their new ipad mini stolen at the reception. (turns out security footage showed it was a catering assistant). Anyway, she was really upset, the night was still young so I popped over to Best Buy and got her a $250 ipad mini, her and her new husband were beyond grateful -- they were two young kids starting out. After editing, I still made a very nice profit and have received a lot of great referrals. Point is, that $250 has earned me thousands, and even if it didn't, I still made out fine and put some good into the world.

January 10, 2015 at 3:24PM

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Todd Covelli
Producer | Multimedia Journalist | E.W. Scripps Co.
124

Scenario 1 - The Wedding Photographer.
Takes a lot of photos at the wedding.
Does some basic color correction batch process and sends the client a CD or online page of all the photos so the happy couple can pick the photos they like. Maybe it's the top 100 for example.
The photographer then does some major colour color correction and adjustments to the selected photos, prints the photos, makes an album, puts them on a webpage. All are happy.

Scenario 2 - The Video guy.
Films everything. The floor. The out of focus vase of flowers. The groom putting his pants on. More floor. That moment the bride wipes her nose during the vows. When cousin Jimmy threw up from too many vodka shots. Some aunt doing the chicken dance on the dance floor.
Plus a lot of really nice shots, not color corrected, not edited, not added with music, with live atmos of a grumbling uncle about the price of wheat (if they live in the country), no music chosen by the happy couple that represent their relationship since they met at a bar at 2am downtown.

You as a videographer give them an edited, color corrected, highlight of the event, plus perhaps an extended version with the full ceremony and some extra dancing and some best wishes from friends and family.
You give them a CD with a quicktime move, put it on YouTube or a web page. Family overseas watch it and shed a tear. The couple watch it and shed a flood.
There's world peace and cats and dogs live together happily.

Why would you give them the bits you, as a seasoned professional, deamed unnecessary to communicate the emotion of the day? And also with live sound, ungraded and with extra floor???

Put it in the contract up front. They pay for and get an edited piece of video. They do not get the off cuts.

Would you ask Michelangelo for the chipped off pieces of marble from the statue of David? I think not.

January 10, 2015 at 3:30PM

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Elahn Zetlin
Video Producer
74

Interesting points above. I will be shooting a friend's wedding in 2 weeks, this page has given me some guidelines and I thank you for those. I have been shooting since the 60's on 16mm film, I took up video in the 80's using VHS tape, now have a nice semi-pro Panasonic HC-V720M FullHD camera, does all I want it to do. My friend wants smooth hand-held photography, and will sit in with me on the editing sessions...I am fine with that. Jeffrey C Cox.

January 10, 2015 at 5:31PM

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Jeffrey C Cox
Cinematographer/Editor
98

I've done quite a few weddings in the last year (possibly ten? I do some 2nd camera stills as well, hard to separate the two...) and I've never been asked for the raw footage. Anyone who asks for it has no clue what they will actually get, unless they're also in the business and want to do an alternate edit or something.

If I was asked I wouldn't have a problem with handing it over but I would certainly charge something extra for it, and they would provide any media required. I think I would definitely also advise them that it won't be of much use to them (unless they do actually want to do their own cut), it won't look anything like the final video I've given them and see if there's anything specific they want to see. Stuff can be added in to a main cut fairly easily (if you got the shot they're looking for) and that would probably be a much tidier solution.

Anyone saying they've paid for it already - they haven't. They pay for me to come and film a certain pre-agreed amount of the day (with my business partner) and for us to provide an edited dvd/bluray/file of what we shoot. Raw footage is never part of the agreement.

One last thought, you've no idea who might end up seeing your raw footage, and how it might be presented to whoever is watching it. The happy couple might want to show off an adorable shot of darling granny with the newest cousin or some such, never mind that it was slightly soft, wobbly, not white balanced correctly and generally not usable. You could easily lose some potential future business.

January 10, 2015 at 5:48PM

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Jonathan Burnside
Co-owner, Supernova Productions
165

What to do when client requests raw video files from shoot
Interesting points above. I will be shooting a friend's wedding in 2 weeks, this page has given me some guidelines and I thank you for those. I have been shooting since the 60's on 16mm film, I took up video in the 80's using VHS tape, now have a nice semi-pro Panasonic HC-V720M FullHD camera, does all I want it to do. My friend wants smooth hand-held photography, and will sit in with me on the editing sessions...I am fine with that. Jeffrey C Cox.

January 10, 2015 at 5:57PM

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Jeffrey C Cox
Cinematographer/Editor
98

I've dealt enough with this and don't offer the raw, but a simple, linear documentary style edit, instead. This way, the bride can see anything she wants, and I include anything remotely worthwhile or that is a decent shot. Thiis works great for me since building a this sort of timeline in my NLE is already how I begin my edit.

My fear for providing raw is from the photog horror stories about it being used against them in court, trying to get a refund, or shaming them online.

January 10, 2015 at 5:59PM

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I meet with clients beforehand, and explain that I shoot multi-camera events and I edit the package together on DVD as theree menu items. The Pre-ceremony stuff (Bridge getting dressed, Make Up etc), The ceremony in full. and a highlights package of the reception. I indicate that what they are paying for is an edited film of their event. I also include a 480P version of the actual vows, ring on finger stuff suitable to be posted on youtube. (I also actually have a stills camera looking at the Bride/Groom on a fixed tripod and shooting by remote). I give them the stills as a bonus. I once had someone ask if they could have the RAW footage (When I used to shoot DV Widescreen) and I pointed out that there was a lot of unusable stuff which would not be view-able as I start a number of cameras running in synch and they run continuously throughout the whole ceremony and are merely used as insert edits or to cover time when the primary camera of the event is being moved or someone walks in front of the camera Etc.

But I do use a professional contract which indicates "proper performance" in terms of delivery. It also addresses the copyright of music issue. I was interested in the issue of music copyright.
I have communication from the copyright people here in South Africa (SAMRO) which indicates that if the music is incidental to the event and is recorded with a microphone, then copyright is not an issue, the acoustics in terms of the event is incidental. But, if I connect a direct line to the desk to record the music or re-insert it afterwards then that is a direct copyright infringement as the recording of the music is a deliberate act.
But given the above, I do maybe one or two weddings a year, more for fun than as a business. My normal cmmercial work keeps me pretty busy.

January 11, 2015 at 12:06AM

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Roger Paul Mills
DOP/Director
135

I've made it standard practice to find out at the start of a project if the client wants raw files and factor in the cost for hard drive(s) + time to pick up transfer etc. I keep those costs low though

January 11, 2015 at 3:59AM

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Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
893

Hi,
I never keep any footage or images of my client with me because - 1. It takes lot of space to archive 2. The client has paid for my service.
But I keep some part of the material for my portfolio with permission from my client. Also if I shoot something out of assignment during the assignment then I keep it.

January 11, 2015 at 6:22AM

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Dibyendu Joardar
Director of Photography
848

Try Filemail, you can upload up to 50 gigabytes (!) for free, download available for 7 days.

January 11, 2015 at 6:47AM

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The mirror is not yours because shows my face
If this situation happen is a serious warning about legalities and quality issues.In my opinion, this situation might happen because the following reasons.
A- Most important one, is because the customer did not like your final edited work and think that somebody else can do it better.
B- Fees were overcharged according to the final product, then customer want take the most he can.
C- By the lack of details in the contract if any contract done, customer might detect the videographer is not experienced about those legal terms and then want exercise the untold rights over the fees.
If Customer ask raw files, this means this detail was not discussed or even considered as a term of the assignment.
D- The mirror is not yours because shows my face. The customer is IN the video, but only belongs to him what is paid for. Not all, if customer is fair, he will pay extra for the raw files even is a kind of insulting situation for the artist who created the footage or assembled the images.

I don’t think to please a customer who wants raw footage is a customer who will refer more business, obviously he is not happy with your work or he is panning to do something else with that footage but without you.
A couple of times this happen to me. I told the customer, that once I finish the edition and the customer accept the final video I “delete” unused files and “only” keep a copy of the delivered video for a while because actually I don’t provide archival service for video. The other time I was asked to deliver also the raw footage I give only the footage that contained the parts used in the final video they got and accepted as delivered work.

Is different if the customer ask me if I have some extra footage can be use in a longer or more funny, etc. version and they are willing to pay or re-arrange the editing style and do sub-versions for different use if worthy the event, location, etc.
I have a different fee when customer wants raw files. Because if videographer is hired for the raw files he must shoot different way than for his own workflow. If I shoot for a customer who want also raw files I shoot longer shots than if is only for my workflow that I know what is really objective. Anyway is unpleasant situation.
A very clear and detailed contract is much better than a legal discussion at the end.

January 11, 2015 at 8:03AM

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Alex Lloyd
Film Director
86

Happen a lot of times. Usually is because they thing that you don't put all that you shoot (data) an want all (sillies things, etc)

January 20, 2015 at 4:18AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
8109

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