Oakland, CA asked in Entertainment / Sports for California

Q: Who owns the raw film footage for a documentary? We raised funds on Kickstarter but under the name of guy who got paid.

My two colleagues and I hired a codirector/editor to document our story. He fulfilled his obligation but I don't like the final product. I want to take in a different direction but he won't give me the raw footage to work with. We used Kickstarter to raise money to pay him but he set it up under his account so the money never passed through our hands, though the budget is public. He was a friend but we're not so friendly now. He refused to sign a contract up front and the timeline from when we hired him til we traveled was very short. It was either hire him and trust it would work out or it would not get filmed. Our haste did not help. Can you?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Ivan  Parron
Ivan Parron
  • Entertainment & Sports Law Lawyer
  • Palmetto Bay, FL

A: Unfortunately it does not sound like you have a very good claim. The person who films or records anything is by default the copyright owner absent a written work for hire agreement. That is precisely why the co director/editor refused to sign a contract, so that he owns the result. You may have some leverage with legal rights in preventing him from releasing or exploiting the film but he owns it. You should consult with an experienced entertainment lawyer for advice and options after hearing more details.

Ali Shahrestani,
Ali Shahrestani,
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in California

A: See my answer to your identical question here. More details are necessary to provide a professional analysis of your issue. The best first step is an Initial Consultation with an Attorney. You can read more about me, my credentials, awards, honors, testimonials, and media appearances/ publications on my law practice website. I practice law in CA, NY, MA, and DC in the following areas of law: Business & Contracts, Criminal Defense, Divorce & Child Custody, and Education Law. This answer does not constitute legal advice; make any predictions, guarantees, or warranties; or create any Attorney-Client relationship.

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