Who owns the rights to audiotaped or videotaped lectures?

One of the big issues among genealogy lecturers in recent years has been the poor relations between conference audio taper, Repeat Performances and the speakrs it has taped. In my role as VP of the Genealogical Speakers Guild I heeard from several speakers about their concerns during the negotiations, which seem to have failed in the end. So I was interested in this message from Tom Terrific, a motivations speaker on this topic. Tom wrote,

“If you hire a video company to tape your presentation and create a demo tape, who owns the copyright and has the rights for the tapes and final product? It’s not an easy question to answer. Read this article in Digital Juice magazine to find the answer and what steps you as the speaker need to take.”

So, take a look and tell me what you think?


3 responses to “Who owns the rights to audiotaped or videotaped lectures?

  1. I was a videographer for several years and also a person who hired firms for lecture taping at medical conferences, educational events, etc. In every case, you should have both a contract with the hired firm AND a release form from your presenters, to assure that YOU the hiring agent, retain the rights to the materials.

    The only time this might get messy is when you have a big wig talking at your event who refuses to sign a release…but this shouldn’t be left to chance…if you anticipate video or audio recording, be up front with both your hired speakers and hired firms so you can retain the rights from the outset. When you get to something that might have resale value, these things all become negotiable. So negotiate as the conference organizer before the event…after things are on tape and there is no paper trail, there can be problems galore.

    Your linked article is quite accurate and provides a good primer the subject.

  2. Ken,
    There is a paper trail in this specific situation over approximately 15 years where the recordings were not paid for by the sponsoring society nor the speakers, but through the sales of the recordings – until genealogy conference attendance dropped and audio tapes were no longer saleable to folks who only had CD players. So over time, as sales dropped, new contracts added a minimum number of tape sales per speaker before royalties were paid, then finally a guarantee of a minimum total sales and a requirement that only digital recording would be done. Those contracts are between the recording company and the host society. The society contracts with the speakers. Sometimes, the speaker contracts were not updated, creating confusion. But these societies are facing exactly the same issues with other vendors, and there is still resistance to the changes forced by technology and marketability. In my contracts with speakers for our teleconference seminars, I not only give the choice of being recorded or not, but whether they want to pay the cost of the recording – and own the recording to do with as they wish. If I pay for the recording, I own the recording, and pay royalties for content distribution sales. I am also adding transcription services through voice recognition, which will alter the cost, royalties and distribution details. Digital media presents challenges, but the bottom line is that the market is driving the bus.


  3. Agree it is always wise to get ownership and consents in writing for video you shoot.

    The article is a bit too “high level” though in saying that you only lose copyright in video if you are an employee or if you sign away your rights.

    You also do not own copyright – even if you shoot it – if it is “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a
    collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas…” to quote the Copyright law.

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