General Legal Information


You should obtain releases throughout your production work. It protects the people and the project from any legal issues that could arise during and after the production. There are two main ones you should know about.

  • Location Release - The location release is a contract between the Production Company and the owner of the location. It basically states that filming will be done between this hour and that on these days for this much money.
  • Talent Release - The talent release is a contract between the Production Company and a person that appears on camera. Any body that appears on the video that can be recognized should sign a talent release. It basically states that you get paid this much and we use your image and audio for anything we want as long as we want to make as much money as we want.

Please click here to view examples of these releases.


Hold someone up to public ridicule, question their character or falsely accuse them of wrongdoing and you face a potential libel suit. While truth is the best defence in a libel action, it will not stop others from suing you and costing you money in legal defence fees.

If you have any doubt about what you are saying or showing about someone, check with a communications lawyer. If a TV station or video Production Company employs you, you can be sued as an individual for your actions. So be careful.

Right to Privacy

In general, you have the right to videotape any event or person in a public place such as a park, the public streets or any other space that is not private property or for which no admission is charged. You don't need permission to shoot and use footage of people or events in public if the footage is not used as part of a TV commercial and the people are not recognizable.

You need permission to shoot at private locations, K-12 schools, hospitals, and prisons, even if you are a working news reporter. To avoid potential suits, get signed releases. These are waivers that release you from the subjects right to privacy for purposes of a video shoot. If a person can be identified, they may sue you for invasion of privacy if they haven't signed a release.

Copyright Law

Copyright means the right to copy. Only the owner of copyright, usually the creator of the piece, is allowed to produce or reproduce the work in question or to permit anyone else to do so. Suppose, for example, that you have produced a video. Copyright law rewards and protects your creative endeavour by giving you the sole right to publish or use your work in any number of ways. You may also choose not to publish your work and to prevent anyone else from doing so.

Copyright applies to all original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Each of these general categories covers a wide range of creations. Here are a few examples:

  • literary works: books, pamphlets, poems and other works consisting of text, including computer programs;
  • dramatic works: films, videos, plays, screenplays and scripts;
  • musical works: compositions that consist of both words and music, or music only (note that lyrics only fall into the literary works category);
  • artistic works: paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and architectural works.

Copyright also applies to all kinds of recordings, such as records, cassettes, and compact discs, which are called "mechanical contrivances" in the Copyright Act. There is a separate copyright for the musical work, for example, a song, and for the device, such as a cassette that produces the song. Separate protection exists because the song and the sound recording are considered to be two different works.

The word "original" is key in defining a work that qualifies for copyright protection. Naturally, you cannot obtain a copyright for someone else's creation. Copyright also includes the sole right to:

  • produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work;
  • convert a dramatic work into a novel or other non-dramatic work;
  • convert a novel, a non-dramatic work or an artistic work into a dramatic work by way of performance in public or otherwise;
  • make a sound recording of a literary, dramatic or musical work;
  • reproduce, adapt and publicly present a work by cinematograph;
  • communicate the work by telecommunication;
  • present an artistic work created after June 7, 1988, at a public exhibition;
  • in the case of a computer program that can be reproduced in the ordinary course of its use, or a sound recording, to rent it out; and, authorize any such acts.

Titles, names and short word combinations are usually not protected by copyright. A "work" for copyright purposes must be something more substantial. However, if a title is original and distinctive, it is protected as part of the work it relates to.

You may have a brilliant idea for a mystery plot, but until the script is actually written, or the video produced, there is no copyright protection. Copyright is restricted to the expression of an idea; it does not extend to the idea itself.

Other items which are not protected by copyright include names or slogans, short phrases and most titles, methods, such as a method of teaching or sculpting, etc., plots or characters; and factual information. In the case of a magazine article including factual information, it is the expression of the information that is protected, and not the facts. Facts, ideas and news are all considered part of the public domain; that is, they are everyone's property.

Note also that you cannot hold a copyright for a work that is in the public domain. You can adapt or translate such a work, and hold a copyright of your adaptation or translation.


Get permission to use protected music in commercial productions. This includes public domain music such as classical compositions, folk tunes, nursery rhymes if the performance has been registered at the National Library. There is video production music that is cheap and includes all rights. This music can be purchased from a variety of music production sources. This custom composed and produced music is designed specifically for video/audio applications. The cost is $45-$75 for up to 20 selections of varying lengths on a CD or CD-ROM. This music can be used repeatedly for any purpose without additional cost or legal clearances.

Production music sources are listed in the want ads of video production trade magazine like A/V Video, Post, Presentations, Broadcasting, and Advertising Age. Videomaker magazine and its website also lists production music suppliers.


Copyright protection includes any still or moving image that its creator legally registered. Even though VCR, computer, and scanning technology makes it easy to copy and manipulate visual information, do not be tempted to use images others have created if you intend to sell or distribute your video efforts.

There are many sources of stock-still and video images you can buy. You will pay based how you are going to use the visual material. Just as there are producers of production music, so too are there companies that sell rights to thousands of hours of film and video images as well as millions of still pictures.

You can find these companies in the same video production trade magazines that list music producers and suppliers. You will also find many of these firms have web sites.

Copyrighting Your Work

You can easily protect your video productions by including a "Notice of Copyright" in the program credits. The statement must include the phrase "Copyright," the year of production, and the name of the copyright holder. But remember, just because you have the right to copyright protection doesn't mean the government will go after someone who uses your work. It is left up to you to protect your creative property. You must be ever vigilant and ready to hire legal help if you wish to stop someone from taking what is legally yours.

Examples of Releases

The following forms are for illustrative purposes only. Please consult a media lawyer for releases to meet your specific needs.

Talent Release Form

Talent Name: _________________________________
Project Title: _________________________________
I hereby consent for value received and without further consideration or compensation to the use (full or in part) of all videotapes taken of me and/or recordings made of my voice and/or written extraction, in whole or in part, of such recordings or musical performance at

__________________ on ________________ 20___
(Recording Location)        (Month)(Day)        (Year)

by ______________________________
for ______________________________
   (Producing Organization)

for the purposes of illustration, broadcast, or distribution in any manner.
Talent's signature______________________________________
Address ________________________________
City ______________________________
Province ________________ Postal Code ______________

Date: ____/____/____ 

If the subject is a minor:

Legal guardian _________________ ___________________
                   (sign/print name)

Address _____________________________
City ________________________
Province ______________________ PostalCode ___________

Date: ____/____/____ 

Location Release Form

Having full authority to do so, I hereby grant __________________ permission to use the property at____________________________ for the purposes of photographing and recording scenes for the production ______________________________________________
during the hours of _______________________________________
on the following days:_____________________________________.

Permission includes, but is not limited to, the right to bring cast, crew, equipment, props and temporary sets onto the premises for the time specified. Total compensation for the specified time period will be: _________________________. If the property is available beyond the specified time period, compensation will be at the rate of ___________ per ___________.

I understand that all items brought onto the premises will be removed at the end of the production period and that the location, including buildings, landscaping and all things associated with same will be fully returned to their original condition, except as mutually agreed upon and indicated below. 

It is further understood that any damage to the property will become the responsibility of the production agency and any needed repair or restoration will be carried out within 14 days of the last specified day of production.

Production Agent Signature ______________________
Printed name _______________________
Title ______________________________
Address ___________________________
Phone number ______________________
Date ______________________________

Property Agent Signature _________________________
Printed name _______________________
Title ______________________________
Address ___________________________
Phone number ______________________
Date ______________________________