Screenwriting : Any rights to the footage? by T. Chambers

T. Chambers

Any rights to the footage?

This question is a bit of a mouthful. I know this is not the norm, but if a screenwriter had a verbal agreement only (the screenwriter never signed a written contract or sold the rights to the film but maintained the rights) for a short film to be used as part of a student director's thesis project for grad school and both the screenwriter and the student director have issues thereby terminating their film-making relationship, can the screenwriter request that all footage that was already shot be destroyed or be sent to him or her? Does he or she have any rights to the footage?

William Martell

Not having a contract works against you probably. Because at one point you agreed that they could use the screenplay, and they made the film based on that agreement. Best to just write it off and write something new.

Regina Lee

My guess is that the rights owner can have an attorney send a "cease and desist," block the director from continuing with production and block the exhibition of the film, but the rights owner cannot have the footage destroyed or sent to him. The ownership is the rights and the exploitation of those rights, not the footage. My guess!

William Martell

Yeah, this is why there are lawyers.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

If you know there is footage, don't you want a copy for yourself? Write or call the person and get a reel. Never know when it will come in handy. Then -- agreeing with Bill Martell - I suggest you write it off.

David E. Gates

In general, if there's no agreement in place, whoever presses the RECORD button or hits the shutter button on video/still images, is the copyright owner.

Erica Benedikty

I think there might be a case here that the school owns the footage. It all depends on who's gear was used. Without an agreement there is nothing, but the footage, that would belongs to the school.

T. Chambers

Thanks for the insight everyone. I would have to agree that the writer couldn't request the footage for him/herself nor ask for it to be destroyed. Wanted to make sure.

Royce Allen Dudley

No written granting of rights= a mess. That said this happens more than you might think and one can potentially get an injunction to stop circulation of the film if you want to take it to court. Equipment and school are irrelevant- the writer is the author. The ethical thing to do is perhaps a different story.

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