Being a student, who is also working freelance, there are a lot of opportunities for learning experiences. Some of these will be framed positively, and others will appear to you as terrible mistakes that you never wish to repeat again.
I have had a couple of those instances, and here I will briefly discuss one of them and the lesson I learned from it.
Since the summer of 2013, I have been working on a commercial for a local company. The pre-production of the commercial took several months, and we didn’t get into production until the beginning of 2014. There were a few problems during pre-production, but we pushed on anyway.
Once the production of the commercial was complete, we sent in the invoice and gave the company access to the video. This is where we went wrong, or at least a massive part of it.
As of the summer 2014, we have still not be paid for our work in the commercial. This includes our actors and music composer as well. The company has been using the video for their own advertising purposes for several months now without us receiving payment or authorizing it for their use. It is still an ongoing conflict, which is why I’m not going to drop any names (yet).
Our first mistake was that most of our correspondence through the production of the commercial was by telephone. It is very possible that this was facilitated by the company itself because the written correspondence that we did have switched to telephone as soon as payment was brought up. We have one email that mentions pricing and that they had agreed to pay us, but that’s all we have in regard to payment.
It is imperative that when doing business any agreement that is made is written out and preferably signed by both parties. It doesn’t matter how good of a relationship you think you have with your client.
Our second mistake was giving them a copy of the video with the invoice. The plan was to give them copyright authorization upon receipt of payment, but since that never happened, they don’t have copyright authorization. This didn’t stop them from uploading the video to YouTube and using it on their website for the past several months without even letting us know.
Unless you have completed your business transaction, do not give the client their end product without having all copyright issues settled. This includes what they can use the product for and for how long, as well as what you can use the product for after signing it over.
From now on, my company and I have created three separate legal documents to be used throughout the process of paying jobs, as well as a copyright authorization to be used for all projects.