Tips for Video Creators: Protecting Your Work

27 March 2019
Posted by Sarah Luttrell

No matter what area of business you’re in, creating video content can be a valuable creative marketing tool. However, films can be complicated from a copyright perspective. In order to minimise your legal risks and protect your work, consider these tips:

Who owns the film?

If you are wanting to use a video you have created, be sure that you are the owner of that film and have the right to use it.

When you create a video, you are creating a distinct type of copyright under the Copyright Act 1986  called a ‘cinematograph film’. The general rule is that the owner of the copyright in a cinematograph film is the ‘maker’ of the film. The ‘maker’ is the person who makes all the necessary arrangements for the making (i.e. the production) of the film.

Where the film is made by an employee and they are making the film as part of their job, the employer will likely be the owner of copyright in the cinematograph film. Likewise, if someone commissions someone (i.e. pays them) to make the film, then the person (or company) who commissions the film will likely own the copyright unless otherwise agreed.

Using other people’s material

While you may own the copyright in the film, you may not own the copyright in all the materials embodied in the film. If you use any material belonging to someone else, you must ensure you have the necessary rights to do so.

For example, if you feature someone’s artwork in your film, you will need permission from the copyright owner of that artwork. If you have a song playing at any point in the film, you will need a licence from the performer, record label and/or publisher.

There are some limited situations where you will be able to use other people’s copyright material without permission. For example, you may not need permission if you are making a film for research or study purposes. There are very particular tests to establish whether the use is a ‘fair dealing’ under the Copyright Act, and if you are making a video for commercial purposes (e.g. as part of an advertising campaign), you may not be able to rely on a fair dealing exception.

Contribution from others

If other people are contributing to the making of the film, you should ensure everyone agrees about what they are contributing, who owns what, and how the film is going to be used.

If someone is writing the script for a film, they will likely own the copyright in the script. Ensure you have a written agreement with any such contributor that says you own and can use the script in the film in the ways in which you want to use it.

If someone is performing in your video, make sure you have written consent from the performer and agreement about how you can use the film.

You also need to consider whether any of your contributors, or the owners of materials you are using in the film, have moral rights. Moral rights mean the right to have the creator attributed (credited), the right to not say another person is a creator of the work if they are not, and the right not to have anything done to the work that could have a negative impact on the creator’s reputation. Creators cannot give away their moral rights, but you can get consent that the film and the way you will use it will not be considered a breach of the individual’s moral rights.

Confidentiality and controlling access

If you are worried about your film getting into the wrong hands, getting leaked before you’re ready to share it, or someone running away with your idea, be sure to control who has access to your work.

If you are sharing the video with others, be sure to use private video features on platforms like Youtube and Vimeo. Where possible, ensure the link is password protected and expires after a certain duration of time.

You might also want to consider getting other people to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (or a Confidentiality Agreement) so you have something concrete to point to if someone speaks about or uses your film in a way that is against your interests.

If you’re thinking about creating video content, or have questions about video content you are using, please get in touch on 03 9521 2128, or email us at We would be happy to assist you!


The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter.