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I have a tendency to over think things, get paranoid and get anxiety when it comes to the law. I had a couple of very unfortunate experience, even one I was completely in the right going to court is a huge headache.

I would like to make an instructional video and put it on a streaming site such as YouTube. My friend has a camera and would like to record me. I would like it if my friend signs a contract saying I'm free to do whatever I like with the video and that I would be the owner. I think my friend (call him Paul) may want to put the video on his YouTube channel to promote it. I would be ok with this but I may want to have comments disabled.

I trust Paul a lot but I once had a friend I trusted rip me off. I don't know how to bring up the topic, I could type up a contract and say "he Paul, could you sign this before we film anything?". According to the Law SE answer I would have to pay him a nominal fee like $1. A small amount is rather insulting in my opinion so I don't know how I would get him to accept.

We have already scheduled a place and time to do the filming. I guess I should discuss this with him before the day but I'm afraid I would offend him.

This was supposed to be something simple and fun and there's no point in getting lawyers involved. I don't want to strain our relationship over this.

How can I talk to Paul about my will for a signed contract without making him feel I don't trust him or that I'm taking advantage of him?

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    Is Paul in any way “professionally” involved with making videos (since you mention promoting his work)? If he is, and probably even if he isn’t, you could argue that a contract benefits him just as much. – AsheraH Jan 24 at 10:52
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    What kind of things are you concerned about happening if he doesn't sign a contract? If he's helping you for free, how could he rip you off? – Kat Jan 27 at 5:20
  • @Kat hypothetically he could edit it in a way I don't like, put it on video sharing sites I don't like, or the recording quality could be bad and I wouldn't want to make the video public on social media, or I could do something stupid in the video and wouldn't want it shared on social media etc. – user20887 Jan 28 at 12:00
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Create a contract which benefits both of you equally.

This will probably require you to compromise on some of the terms. For example, you say you want to be free to do anything at all with the video, but you want to restrict where your friend posts it. Of course he will feel taken advantage of if you're allowed more privileges than he is with the resulting video. I suggest whatever terms you put in, you make them apply to both of you equally. Some examples:

  • Either of you can post the video on X sites (or any sites except Y)

  • Both of you are free to make money off the video and the other isn't entitled to any compensation

  • The video can only be published if it includes the credits screen

  • Both of you have the right to a final review of the video before publication and can veto publishing it for any reason

This protects your friend as much as it protects you, so there's no reason to be offended. It's about setting clear expectations about how the video will be used so neither of you end up with hurt feelings later, not a lack of trust. Frame it that way, and if he's a reasonable person, he should take it fine.

You should definitely also make it clear that any contract you offer him is a draft, and you welcome his input on adjusting the terms before signing. You could even write it up with blanks in places that describe compensation amounts, where it's allowed to be posted, etc and then discuss what values should go there before writing them in. That'll help him feel like you're equal partners instead of you dictating terms to him when he's doing you a favor.

If you are dead set on having terms which strongly favor you, it'll be trickier. I think you'll have to state up front that you know the terms aren't fair, then offer some kind of compensation or make it absolutely clear you're okay with him backing out on his offer if he's not comfortable with the terms.

IANAL, but I don't think you need to offer to pay him anything to limit his use of a video you appear in. You'd have no recourse if he got lazy and never edited the video (since you never paid him), but you can still prevent him from publishing the video without your consent. If you're worried about becoming rich off the video and him suing you for a portion of the profits, then I think your best bet is to agree to share X% of any proceeds over $Y, where X and Y are something you can live with. But that seems unlikely to ever be an actual issue, so it's up to you how thorough you want to be about unlikely events.

  • Thanks this is a really good answer :) – user20887 Feb 10 at 9:13
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This is probably only a partial answer. I program, rather than make videos. But the same sort of situation can occur. I'm helpful, and early on in my career I had been asked by associates if I'd help them set up a website. I helped a couple of these people, but most of them approached me with a contract they wanted me to sign. I feel like the reason I didn't help any of these people might be useful to you.

All of them approached me with an already written contract to introduce the topic. Speaking with them about it, they did not intend to provide me any ability to adjust that contract. There was very little about the contract that I had a particular problem with. The only aspect there was that they were very clearly written from the perspective of someone who hoped to make a lot of money off of the website I was to help them make, and I was to neither get any compensation nor credit.

I personally feel if I'm helping somebody out with something not related to my job, and they want me to sign a contract, I should have some input into that contract. Even if it's the perfect contract, I'd be a lot more comfortable with it if I have an opportunity to make a change. (This doesn't mean I want one thing wrong so I can fix it, I just don't want negotiations to be completely ruled out from the start.)

If I'm going to contribute some effort that would normally be the product of a paid employee or contractor, and I'm (possibly) not getting paid a significant consideration, I should be able to decide if my name gets put on it or not. I'll admit that two of the people who approached me with a contract for my free assistance would've lucked out in this regard had they given me the option and otherwise everything seemed reasonable to me, as I'd want no credit for what they wanted to do. But other times, I'd have at least wanted my name on a Credits or Thank You page.

If somebody is going to be trying to make a business out of what I've assisted them with, I'd prefer to not have them rule out monetary reimbursement so dramatically up front. I admit that paying someone $1 at the outset of such an endeavor does not necessarily preclude any future returns, but the vast majority of times I've heard of someone offering free assistance to someone, that turning into something big for the person helped, and the person doing the helping getting reasonable compensation after the fact were instances with no contract. When there has been a contract, that contract almost always stated some provision for the possibility of such additional compensation explicitly.

This doesn't mean it would have to be written in to such an extent that it would be financially detrimental to the person being helped. It's possible it could even be written in such a way that it explicitly would only kick in at such a time when it wasn't particularly financially detrimental. (Maybe it would mean a slightly less lavish vacation, for example.)


This answer only covers a few of the things that people could potentially be at odds with, because I was only patient enough to even consider entertaining such ideas for a short while before my response to the question about helping out with the website at all was, "You know, I'm really not that kind of a programmer."

I do feel like it's probably better to have things spelled out in writing for commercial ventures, but I feel like the information exchange should be a bit more even and start earlier on in the process before springing a sheaf of legal paper on them.

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