Has anybody ever asked you to work for free because it will give you ‘good experience,’ ‘great exposure’ or ‘would look good on your CV?’ If it’s a yes to all of these, you probably work in a creative industry…
A friend recently got in touch to congratulate me on my Dartmoor Pony footage making it onto Channel 5’s morning chat show, The Wright Stuff. At first I thought it might have been a mistake as this was the first I’d heard about it, but the following day I thought I’d check it out myself and watch the show online. About an hour into the show, they started to discuss the topic of Dartmoor Ponies being made into burgers, in order to increase their welfare. This is a topic that was being debated at the time of producing my film, but hadn’t really taken off or been implemented at that point. Not long after Matthew Wright had introduced this topic, did images from my film start to appear.
Most people would assume that I would be elated about this and super happy that my footage has been broadcast on TV which, would be the case, if the production company had paid for the rights to that footage.
Here are my issues with this:
- They had ripped the footage from my YouTube page. From my YouTube page, and even the film credits, you can read my name clearly. It only takes one Google search to find the same film on my website, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn pages, all linked to my contact details. If they had time to research and rip the footage, they also had time for a quick phone call.
- They credited me, incorrectly. If you’re unwilling to pay for the rights, the least you can do is credit the filmmaker properly.
- They took the footage from online and broadcast it on TV without paying a penny. My outgoings for the film:
- A university degree to gain the skills
- Transport / accommodation / food and drink on location
- An entire year of research, planning, filming and editing
I got in touch with the production company who produce the show, Princess Productions (PP), to share my thoughts and concerns, and this is the response that I got:
‘I’m sorry that your permission was not sought for the use of this clip, and that your name was spelt incorrectly on screen. We have discussed this with the legal team here and they have confirmed that Under section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 we are entitled to use copyrighted works for the purpose of reporting current events and/or quotation. As a news and current affairs programme, The Wright Stuff relies on this exception regularly when discussing news stories. We did not therefore require your permission in this instance, and there has been no “theft” of your property.’
Here are my issues with this:
- I was quite shocked to hear that there is such a law, and absolutely do not agree with it. If they need to use something that has cost an individual time and money, the least they should have to do is ask permission for it.
- It amuses me that online The Wright Stuff is under the ‘Entertainment’ section, however for the purposes of this Act, is bracketed under ‘News and Current Affairs.’
However, despite these annoyances, my main issue with the response was the word ‘theft’ written in speech marks. I felt as though I’d been undermined and made to feel like I had overreacted.
Although I am lucky enough to be in a stable job that I enjoy, and not dependant on sourcing different incomes from various places, if I was working as a freelancer, a good source of income could come from selling on footage and photographs. PP, I’m assuming, have no idea what I do as they didn’t even click past my YouTube channel. Therefore I’d also have to assume, that they have no clue as to whether I depend on selling on my footage in order to pay bills and buy food.
You wouldn’t go to a hairdressers / restaurant / mechanic / gym class / post office or any business that offers a great service, and expect to walk out without paying for it. So why has it become acceptable for creatives to be paid nothing for their efforts? If people desire a photographer or filmmaker’s work, they must have the necessary budget to pay for it.
Not only in this case is it apparently acceptable, but also something that they felt they didn’t need to apologise for and make me feel foolish for even raising it with them. As a creative company themselves, I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate another program ripping their content and posting it everywhere for free, when they’ve had to pay for the studio, camera operators, presenters etc.
I emailed them back, expressing my thoughts again, to which they have ‘out of a gesture of goodwill’ paid me a tiny fee for my footage (Not to industry standards). It was a small battle won, however I don’t think they’ll stop stealing people’s work anytime soon.
“You’ll get great exposure” and “It will help build up your portfolio” are lame excuses for companies who want to exploit and undervalue creative work, in order for their profit margins to benefit as a direct result. Exposure doesn’t pay for the camera, the lenses, the microphones, the transport, the petrol (you get the gist), but the work produced will probably make the company money. How is that fair?
A great community has been built up online through The Freelancer Club where only paid work is advertised. It’s a great way for freelancers to find companies that respect and value their work, but also for companies to make a statement and say that they will never hire someone for free. Check it out here The Freelancer Club.
For more on the Dartmoor Pony burger story, click here.