Indiefilmlaw's Blog
Ideas, Inspiration and Legal Resources for Artists, Filmmakers, Producers and Film Students

What if my work was published in a new work without giving me credit?

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Imagine this scenario: As part of your job you provide training for business outside your organization such as customers or vendors. During one of your training sessions, you are approached and asked to contribute to a video version of the training session that the organization plans to post online and portions of which may be include as part of their online marketing efforts. You spend several weeks and write a script using your own research. You are compensated for your time. Thereafter, you also present on some of this information during one of your training sessions.

At some point there is a falling out before the video is finished (you saw that coming didn’t you?). So the organization who produces the video ends up using your work, and not giving you credit. Most of it is even used word for word. Each topic, reference, and story, etc.

First, putting aside the state law right-of-publicity issues, from a copyright law standpoint, you most likely do own the work you contributed (i.e. without a written agreement, it was not a “work for hire” belonging to the company). For this work to be a work for hire, there would have to be a written document, signed by you, and executed before you created the work, saying it was a work for hire. The copyright in the work most likely remains in your name unless you executed a written Assignment giving them the copyright in what you created.

However, if you accepted the money from the company, and depending on other facts, the company may say that this payment was for a license giving them permission to use the work in their video. A license can be oral rather than in writing.

If you think the facts don’t support a license and that your copyright was violated by including your work without your permission, you still have to have registered the copyright in the chapter with the US Copyright Office before you can sue for infringement. If you registered within 90 days of first publication of the chapter, you have the benefits of being able to get your attorney’s fees covered and also suing for statutory damages, where you don’t need to take the time of expense of proving your actual damages. You can register after the 90 day grace period to be able to file a lawsuit, but you don’t get the attorneys fees or statutory damages. You can file this form yourself fairly easily on Form TX through the copyright office at http://www.Copyright.gov.

About The Author

Safeguarding Ideas, Relationships & Talent®

Filmmakers face an often confusing and changing set of challenges trying to ensure that their business remains legally compliant. Yet few can afford the highly-qualified and versatile legal staff needed to deal with today’s complex and inconstant legal and regulatory environment. Adler & Franczyk is a boutique law firm created with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business.

We approach our relationship with each client as a true partnership and we view our firm as an extension of their capabilities. Our primary value is our specialization on relevant and complex issues that maintain the leading edge for our clients. We invite you to learn more about the services we offer and how we differ.

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