Who Owns The Raw Footage?

Here we are going to discuss the question of who owns the raw footage when we shoot a piece for you. We are often asked this question – “Could you also send us the raw footage?”. The answer is no, but why? Who owns the raw footage?
When we say raw footage we mean all the footage/shots recorded in the entire filming process. The question of who owns that footage can be confusing for people at times, but in fact it needn’t be. We always make ownership of footage and the final edit clear in our terms before we do any work. Below is an explanation of why…

In the TV and film industry it is standard practice to ensure contracts are in place with everyone involved to assign copyright over to the producer. When creating something with multiple people it is essential that the issue of who owns the footage is cleared up before any filming is started. However, in the smaller scale corporate sector it is not commonplace to address this problem up front. So to be clear – we only assign copyright of the final film to you. Copyright law states that the production company owns the work it produces, so usually we do not automatically assign copyright of the raw footage unless the client specifically stipulates it beforehand.

Aside from copyright law, there are three main reasons why most production companies don’t give out raw footage without prior agreement –

1. We don’t want you to see us in the raw…

This may seem daft, but it has to be mentioned because it’s a big deal to us. With every great shot amongst the raw footage, there may be many bad shots that would never make the edit. Those shots ruined by minor tech issues, poor timing, sudden changes in lighting, or by that one ‘videobomber’ who insists on waving at the camera. A camera operator may spend an hour trying to get the perfect shot. During this time, 59 minutes may be complete rubbish (with the odd swearword thrown in every time they mess up). These moments are not exactly a good reflection of their best work and it’s something they won’t want anyone to see.

2. The Cost

Handing over raw footage does have a cost implication. If you imagine that on some high-end cameras an hour of footage can be 765 GB. If on a project 10 hours of footage is filmed that would be 7,650 GB! Nearly 8 terabytes of data! The hard-drive cost alone would be into the hundreds of pounds. On top of this there is the time it would take to export all the data – it could run into 20+ hours of computer time. That means it won’t be cheap for you, and it also may not actually be much use to you.

3. Our work might get ruined, or we might lose out on future work…

This is the first reaction for any production company when you ask for the raw footage. We are artists, so we always worry that someone is going to take our art and get someone else to draw on it (or in our minds, ruin it) for half the price! In most cases the client’s motives are genuine and have an innocent reason behind them. But that doesn’t stop production companies sweating with fear at the thought of the implication. It seems crazy but most creative people have a strong attachment to every piece of work they create. The thought of someone blemishing that is hard!

At the end of the day, if you have a contract first with all this agreed you wont have any problems.

As always, if you have any other questions about ownership feel free to contact us.