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Who owns the copyright on the footage in this case?

Hi, thanks for taking the time to read this.
In may I swapped my freelance status for a full time position making online videos for a company. I had a written contract.
In May they paid me, in June they paid me but short of 30% of the monthly amount. But later in July I received the missing 30% from the company director's personal account. In July they paid me short of 15% of the monthly amount. Then when I asked about the missing payment, they decided to terminate my contract. They haven't paid me the two weeks of August. Aside from the charlatan manner of this I would like to check who has copyright on the material I filmed for them.

The circumstances behind this are that in June whilst I was waiting for the missing 30% I filmed for them for two days and used my own equipment to help them out of their difficulty. I did the same for some filming in July. At the time I saved the footage on my personal hard drive from my personal camera.

Because they are having money troubles, they don't want to pay me but they want 'their' footage. They have only part-paid for my time with them therefore not fulfilling the contract I had in June/July/August. Or does the amount I received from the company director personally come in to play?

My stance at the moment is to hold on to the footage in hope that they settle the outstanding amount. My thinking is that I own the intellectual property of the footage because my contract was breeched (albeit part) and that it was filmed on my own equipment - but is there anything in writing somewhere that proves that this is the case? Or does anyone know differently ?


  • Ugh, what a messy situation. Anything shot in June is out of the discussion TBH as they did pay you, but paid you late. One part of a contract being in breach doesn't mean it all is.

    I would treat this as two issues - let them have the masters but advise them you're going to sue and involve HMRC/ACAS for your missing wages (and any owed holiday pay) unless they settle within 7 days.

    It's a shame it's come to this, but take the higher ground, do everything above the table, and then you'll have the option of legal recourse without complication.

    My thoughts, at least.

    4 months ago
  • Thanks for your answer Paddy. I have already begun the process with ACAS actually. I have payslips provided and payments made to HMRC but not to myself.

    My payment in June which was 30% short was only rectified 3 weeks later and from the company director's personal account. This means that the company did not fulfil its contract with me - so in this case, who owns the copyright of the footage ? I didn't have an agreement with him personally and treated it like a gift.

    4 months ago
    • Not really relevant where the money came from, it came, albeit late. Certainly doesn't invalidate the rest of your agreement. It wasn't a gift, you can't call it a gift, HMRC won't see it as a gift, it should still have taxes paid. I really wouldn't go down the wormhole of IP in what's a simple employment law question.

      4 months ago
  • Hi David,
    Amical resolutions to (non-)performance difficulties are always the best way out of such tangles, but a couple of points might be key (I'm not a lawyer btw):
    - what does the contract actually say about ownership of the footage ?
    - what does it say about deliverables/resolving anomalies between parties (if anything) ?
    The source of the funds by way of late payment to you, as Paddy suggests, is really irrelevant, and you're not likely about to claim (useful) ownership of the footage (are you ?). But if relations have become bloody beyond repair, imv you cld now bill the company for the prior extra-contractual use of your equipment and sit tight on the footage until you get your remuneration as stipulated in the original contract.
    Probably of overriding importance is how much value is at issue here, and would pursuing the dispute be worth the potentially bad vibes that could reverberate from it, such as they might be.

    4 months ago
  • hi Nick, thanks for your response.
    I'm dealing with a person who does not work in the industry and is independent. He also makes a sport out of not paying people and has a very long line of cases against him from suppliers to previous employees. So I'm not concerned with breaking ties.

    He owes me £2000 in unpaid wages and will, without doubt never pay this as he is doing with other employees. I have already started a procedure with ACAS as well.

    He is taking the stance that I am holding onto company 'property'. My view is that he has broken his contract with me by not paying the two months. He was kicked out of his office for not paying rent during the time that I filmed something for him and so it was on my own equipment and stored on my own hard drive.

    Since then they terminated my 'contract' still not paid me - but of course, want the footage.

    So I'm unsure where i stand

    4 months ago
    • If it's wages he owes you, then he owns the footage. Your wages are a separate issue But there's no harm in making him go to court by arguing that you are witholding pending settlement.

      Also might like to hear, or the VAT people.

      I once bankrupted a guy (stole, then brutally gelded a lovely stallion owned by a girl I was chasing) by telling the VAT people what he had done. Perhaps an apparently rich guy who would do that might also not have done the right thing by the VAT man?

      "Any evidence Sir?"


      But they did indeed decide he was worth an audit, and he was bust inside 2 months.

      4 months ago
    • @Marlom Tander Thanks for your response. I like that link you provided. Of course if i make him bankrupt or fraudulent then I may lose the chance to get my money.

      4 months ago
    • The hard-nosed tactical response would be to signal that, if this character wants his footage, he's going to be forking out more than £2k to get it - unless he pays what he contractually owes you. Plus fees for your extra-contractual services provided. Plus costs. Plus any agency supplements incurred. And then there's the matter of Employment Tribunal proceedings if he's not respecting your statutory rights in terminating the contract, ACAS permitting ...

      4 months ago
    • @David Hewitt - credible threats can work. But you need to be creative to convince. And detail matters. "See you in court" isn't a credible threat. "See you in court and this is the process, time and money you will waste by forcing me to do so", can be.

      Back in the days of faxes I sent a guy a fax detailing the bankruptcy process, and what it would cost me to make him bankrupt and that I'd consider it money well spent as I took his actions as a personal insult, not just a commercial dispute.

      My trick - faxing it to the main office number. Result - before he even saw it his staff were asking if they were going bust. Settled, in full, immediately :-)

      However I think the debt has to be 5K+ these days to bankrupt someone. And who uses faxes any more....

      4 months ago
  • Don’t blur the separate issues. They own the copyright. Their impecuniosity is a totally unrelated issue.

    4 months ago
  • Thanks Eric. I love your word 'impecuniously'. The guy pretends to be a multi-millionaire and i suspect he is a fraud so your work sums up the irony well.

    4 months ago
  • *word

    4 months ago
  • As the saying goes, possession is nine-tenths of the law. If you give up the footage you lose all your leverage to get the £2k that's rightfully yours.

    4 months ago
  • Thanks for the responses. Like I say he’s a particular person this one who uses legal action before his pride. This is his response to me:

    “Dear David,

    it got to my attention that you are in possession of company properties, files belonging to us, and that you will not give those back unless you get paid your last salary.

    I am also aware that you claim a breach of contract for a delay in your last pay. You need to know that good faith and documented efforts to resolve such issues, are and will always be taken into account when that arise in a business when those matters, rarely, move to court.

    However, your contract, that you signed, clearly stipulates that you will not get paid your finale amount until and unless all company properties and return in good state and order. To be clear on that subject, this is valid, and we had to hire legal support to make sure noone is taken advantage of a situation we are dealing with, and that any loss of revenues, cost of production etc..., time and reputation will be addressed and claimed for before a court of law.

    I don't believe that as a freelance, it is in your interest to spend your time and efforts dealing with a legal claim that could cost tens of thousands of pounds.

    When those files are returned and checked ( any damage to it will ultimately trigger a lawsuit ), we will proceed with your last salary and end it here.

    Feel free to get in touch with Fauz or Alex to get those files where they belong, before end of play tomorrow.

    Hoping that we can put this matter to bed, and that we can all be glad and move on.

    Best regards,”

    4 months ago
  • There is such a thing as a claim of lein on goods and certain types of property. A lein is asserted if a debt is due and there is good reason to suspect that a debt won't be paid if the the leined goods are released.

    Contracts are not tablets from heaven even if they are properly structed. There are several reasons why an otherwise properly structured may be unenforceable.

    If I understand your position correctly, there's evidence to support the assertion that your employer has failed to pay other debts and that he's u reliable. That's your defence,articulate it clearly and cite the specific evidence to support your assertions. An independent entity can be instructed to provide an escrow that ensures that both parties fulfill their obligations. If the other party rejects the lawful lein and escrow offer and opts to go to court the court will be unlikely to favour them, provided your concerns can be proven to be reasonable. The danger for your opponent is that all costs in such a case will be awarded to the party offering the escrow. Also known as ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)

    4 months ago
  • Law has been justifiably called an ass, but that's only where donkeys have been involved. It's easy, and too often profitable, for some folk and their lawyers, to get overly entrenched in clever clauses or for ordinary people to become enamoured in what to them might seem like unassailablly learned arguments. English Law however is not bound by clever clauses as much as by "The Spirit of the Law" and "The Spirit of Intent"; even if does require a learned judge.

    No judgement held in a County Court or in any other type
    of quasi court, such as a Tribunal or a Magistrates Court acting as a county court in a civil matter, is unchallengeable (As described in that font of learned wisdom 'Halsbury's Laws of England' those lower quasi courts are actually just "Unlawful Administrative Hearings", much loved by both scoundrels and bullying petty officials), meaning that every such judgment can be appealed to actual Law.

    It's important to show confidence in ones arguments by reference to actual law and not to be impressed with grandstanding opponents or delusions of grandeur by petty officials, even if they are sitting on higher bench before oneself. They don't want to be overturned in their judgements either.

    4 months ago
  • My two cents...Superbly put John. Excellent advise offering a fair and quite inexpensive resolution without either side having to escalate and incur the risk of litigation.
    Kudos John

    4 months ago
  • Chipping in again after seeing the letter above - he claims he'll pay on delivery of the material, and you don't trust him to do so. This is where an independent, mutually trusted third party can act as an escrow. He gives them the money, you give the footage, when they have both, they complete the transaction. I suggest an independent accountant or lawyer would be able to do this for you.

    4 months ago
    • +1.

      Even simply agree a time and place for delivery, and they bring the cash. I think it sounds like you'd want cash from this guy.

      4 months ago
  • That'd be the way Paddy.

    4 months ago