Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Videotaping the Parish Priest

Dear Rich: I am a freelance filmmaker in Chicago and I do volunteer freelance film making for churches. Once a year we have a parish mission at our church and our guest speaker is usually a priest from a different church. I'm the person in charge of audio/video taping the mission. The church has nothing to do with it at all except they are the beneficiaries of my work. The visiting priest that comes to our parish has already verbally agreed to allow me to tape and make CD/DVDs of the mission for our parish library. How do I obtain rights on the film footage to do what I want without scaring away other priests that may be involved? As chief videographer you probably acquire the copyright in the video. We say "probably" because we don't know if there is some hiring agreement, or whether there are video taping rules within the church (for example, if you are granted special permission to tape, there may be strings attached with that permission.) 
Assuming you do have copyright ... You should obtain consents from the subjects of your video. Unless you're dealing with producers, investors or distributors, you can probably get by with a videotaped consent. Tell your subject that you need their consent for the following uses (list all your anticipated uses such as distributing DVDs, posting on the web), and explain that you may not use the interview in its entirety-- that is, you may use edited segments. Make sure that there is a real consent  -- even something as simple as "Yes, that's okay with me," will work. Then save that video. As we mentioned, if you're dealing with money people or distributors, a written consent -- with its additional provisions and releases, for example, permission to use the priest's name and image in advertising -- may be preferred. 
Books that can help. You can find the forms you need in Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off (insert FTC disclaimer) and in Clearance and Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television (a great primer on permissions for film makers).
Can't afford a lawyer? You may not need much money to get legal advice. Chicago is one of several cities with "lawyers for the arts" services. This may include pro bono advice or other low cost services. The Dear Rich Staff used to provide free legal advice at the CLA office in San Francisco but then we created this blog, instead! (Speaking of religion, the staff is currently digging this book)