May 5, 2015 at 4:56AM, Edited May 5, 4:59AM


who owns the raw footage if the client did not pay?

I have been working with 2 HD camera in California, because he is a 41 years old friend I have agreed a very small price $5000.00 for 3 months of work.
We agreed for a 30% down payment prior to my arrival from Europe to the USA.
Also for food and lodging that will be their cost.

Now I came back and since 2 months I have not received any amount.
I tried to come to them to a agreement and give them time to pay in rates or to come to any agreement but so far they are insulting me and demanding to hand over all my video and photo material.
I already left most of the material there edited and some in RAW footage.
I have here all material including over 35 hours of RAW video.
I stopped so far the project as besides the camera went broken there, the FireWire board went broke of my ProHD JVC, there is no single payment yet made to me.
According me I own the material but correct me if I am wrong please.

sorry for posting this twice :(


Do you have a signed contract with your client ?

If you don't, then you need one ASAP. This contract should spell out what you are delivering to your client, what they are paying you and how often they are paying you, and who owns what at the end of the day.

If you do have a signed contract, then you will need to seek out legal advice to find out what your best option is.

"Work for hire" contracts mean that your client owns everything, including your raw unprocessed footage.


May 5, 2015 at 6:59AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Always be careful when working with friends or too small budget. The cheapest the client, the more annoying he is.
I think you are fine, don't give them the footage unless they pay.
What you risk depends on what you have signed but even the worst case scenario, if they go to court, you might be pushed to give the footage but they will also be pushed to pay you.
Anyway, you own your the footage except if you have signed that they have the exclusive use of the rights, without saying that it is in exchange of the payment.
Oh and by the way you are the author no matter what you sign. A client never owns your footage, at best he only owns the exclusive rights to use it without limits in time.

May 14, 2015 at 5:30AM, Edited May 14, 5:40AM


You own it even if they pay. Unless you've signed away your ownership rights to it in a contractual agreement.

June 15, 2015 at 6:19PM

Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography

Ive had a similar problem.
I was working with a good friend (which I now know is not recommended) who works in real estate. He invited me, as a cinematographer, to go with him on a hunt to document his journey shooting some world record wild game. Spent 6 days in the woods, edited the raw footage for 12 hours and gave him the final video to review.
Just to remind, no contracts have been signed nor have payments been transfered.
He asks how much do I charged after the hunt and video was completed, I responded $500 a day and $40 an hour in the edit suite.
He responds that the price is ridiculous, and I understand where he is coming from. It is a lot of money to work with after the fact. So instead of a couple thousand, he offered a total of $500 for all my work. Instead of arguing with him I accepted his payment.
This whole ordeal with my friend has taken a year to work out. During this year, I went out for a second time with him (before our argument, but after making the first video).
This is where the situation gets sticky. I just returned from the second trip after spending 6 days in the woods filming this individual for his personal video.
I talked to him about the first video which came to a total of $500, now im working on the second video and im thinking of withholding the raw footage from him.
Again, no contracts have been signed, first video has been paid for which I could careless about, now Im stuck with this second video and I need your guys help. I have all the raw footage with no contracts signed and no payments have been made.
Question 1: Do I possess full copyrights for all raw footage or does my friend have some rights to the footage?
Question 2: If I end keeping the footage, am I able to reuse the footage that doesn't have my friend in the shots?

October 22, 2015 at 4:35PM

Jared D

If no contract has been signed, then you need to establish a working contract with him that spells out how much you get paid and who owns the footage.

Sometimes I will take on a job where I am shooting it mainly for my portfolio, and I will offer to license the footage to the client for their specific purposes. This means that I own the footage and can do what I like with it ( make sure you have releases from anyone on camera ), but they have a license that allows them to use the same footage for their specific purpose. They don't own the footage, they can't sell it, but they are free to use the footage for their specific project.

Guy McLoughlin

October 25, 2015 at 12:08PM

If my client wishes to continue business with me, then for sure ill establish a contract with him. But for now I would like some more information with the raw footage that I currently have. With no contract signed nor have any payments been transferred, do I own all the raw footage? And can I reuse the raw footage for another video (as long as my clients face isn't in the shot)?

October 28, 2015 at 2:24PM

Jared D

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