A recent case in the Federal Magistrates Court highlights how important it is – even for small scale or low-budget film productions – to make sure everyone knows the basis on which they’re going to be involved in a project

The case was brought by a cameraman in relation to work done filming the Adelaide band, Hoy-Hoy! The dispute centred on who owned copyright in footage and sounds filmed and recorded by the cameraman. There was no written agreement

It’s often said that copyright is usually owned by the person or people who creates the material – whether or not they material is commissioned. However, different rules apply to what the Copyright Act refers to as “sound recordings” and “cinematograph films”

In this case, the Federal Magistrate found that, because the cameraman was paid for his work, copyright belonged to the “producer” – the person who organised the filming, who engaged the cameraman and who was the driving force behind the DVD project for which the footage was being shot

The moral of the story is that it’s always best to get early advice if you’re uncertain how copyright will apply in your sitation, and to use properly drafted written agreements that deal with all relevant legal issues

If you’d like to talk to a film lawyer, contact Jules Munro.