Who Owns your Explainer Video? Ownership Rights Explained

A common question that arises in online video production is the question of who owns the rights to the video. To which the obvious expected answer is you, who are after all paying for the work! But the question is actually a bit more complex than it might at first seem. Firstly, ownership rights can vary from agency to agency. It can also depend on the underlying terms with voice artists, animators or others involved in the production.

 
 

The Final Video

In most cases in the industry it is the client who owns the final deliverable video, i.e. the mp4 or mov file. Less commonly, there are cases where the agency owns the video but leases it to the client. The advice here is to check ownership rights with your agency. It should also be pretty obvious if you check your contract. But hold on a second, it’s not quite that simple. Is the video agency free to show the video on their portfolio and social media? What about any contractors who were used in the process? e.g. sound engineers, designers, animators, voiceover artists.

 
That brings us to the next section…

 
 

Online Display of the Video

A common clause in many contracts allows the video production agency to display the video online in their portfolios but that the client can ask them to remove it at any time. Should you allow the creator to display the video? Creatively, this is absolutely in your best interests. Creatives live and die by their portfolio of work and if they aren’t allowed to show off the work you might find their enthusiasm curbed for the project. In financial terms, the work becomes less valuable to the creator because they can’t use it to win more business. That is – you’ve removed their incentive to over-invest in the project! But sometimes there are good reasons why you don’t want your video popping elsewhere on the internet, e.g. it may contains sensitive material such as content for internal consumption in your company. You can also check with your creator what their agreements are with their suppliers, as you may not want your content appearing in different places online. In most cases clients don’t mind if creatives show the video and but will request that the creator waits until the video has been publicly released.
 
 

Voice Artists

In most cases you will not actually own the voiceover recording but own the license to use it in your production. Most voiceover recordings for explainer videos are licensed for unlimited online use. However this does not usually extend to broadcast usage (TV/radio). Some voiceover artists also charge a bigger fee if the video will be used for paid online advertising. As a small company you might find it surprising to need to pay extra if you want to throw a small bit of money at some targeted Facebook/Youtube advertising! But the best advice here is to confirm this with your production agency before production. In most cases the agency should have factored this in but it can’t hurt to check. Have a look at this guide to see how the different types of voiceover usage and fees might break down.

 
 

Stock Footage

Stock footage also has typically has usage conditions attached, depending on where it’s sourced from. Footage can often be bought with full, unlimited usage or for online (non-broadcast) usage. Notwithstanding, there is usually the condition attached that you can’t use the footage for unlawful, defamatory purposes and so forth.

 
 

Acting Talent

In live action video, it is common for acting talent to have agreements in place limiting the amount of time that a video can be used. For example 2 years is common with the option for clients to renew under certain conditions. If you’re creating a permanent piece of content for online use this can feel frustrating and a bit antiquated. But for actors and their agents it is important because they want to protect their image. After all, if they get that big role on Game of Thrones they wouldn’t want to be seen on your sucky little app’s promo video now would they? Actors also want to keep the freedom to work with competing clients, e.g. if they’re asked to be the “face” of a brand then a condition may be that they can’t be representing competitors. Our advice is to plan ahead. Think about your requirements. That way the casting will be more efficient. And you’ll have no surprises!

 
 

Music

Most explainer video music is royalty free music. This basically means you pay once and there’s no usage fee attached for the number of times it’s shown, or where it’s shown. If your video is for use on TV then it’s probably worth double-checking this with your creator. If you are custom-composing your track then you can also ask the question as to whether there are usage conditions attached.

 
 

Video Source Files

Finally, we come to the source files used to create your video. That is to say the underlying raw files containing the illustrations and animation work. Some creators will charge an extra fee to supply them and so if you will be needing these it’s advisable to check with your creator before starting. Most creators will store the files for a number of years but this kind of stuff can go missing too so if the files are important to you then make sure you get them and archive them somewhere.

 
 
As you can see ownership rights for explainer videos can present a few complications to think about. But mostly this is minor stuff unless you’re making content for TV. Hope that helped!