August 26, 2013

Ethics: How to mind your multimedia production manners

Doing the right thing is often connected to doing things right.

While I am not an attorney (and don't play one of television, either), there are some tips and recommendations I can make to help any corporate communications professional involved in producing video or motion media. Make sure your corporate ethics are mirrored by your creative and production vendor partners.  Here are the basics:
  • If you use licensed music, footage, animation, or graphics, ask to have a copy of the licensing agreement for your project file.
  • If your voice or on-camera talent isn't a "buy out" (a buy out means the talent's recording can be used for any purpose for as long as you like--as defined in an agreement/"dealmemo"), make sure you get a copy of the contract, so you can see and adhere to whatever "use" limitations there might be.
  • If confidentiality is important to you, make sure your contract with your vendor partner has a non-disclosure agreement clause that ALSO covers all their subcontractors and employees.
  • If your production contract is based on time and materials, make sure you have documentation from your vendor to justify the hours/days spent by their employees and sub-contractors on your project.
  • If your production contract is a Firm Fixed Price or Not-to-Exceed basis, make sure you spell out the specific details in a Scope of Work.
  • Make sure you have "talent releases" for anyone featured in the video, whether they are professional talent or employees/managers/executives, or people on-the-street. There are some exceptions to this in public venues...and other ways of notifying the public that their image or voice may be used in a production.
  • If filming on location, make sure you have "location releases" that acknowledge the imagery of that location may be used, and whatever other details are necessary.
  • Often, large companies or government entities require a Certificate of Insurance from production vendors, with their organizations listed as additionally insured. There is typically no/low additional charge for these to be drawn up by the insurance agent, beyond the annual policy carried by the production company...unless you require more business liability coverage than is carried by the production company (typically $1,000,000).
  • And finally, make sure proper permitting has been arranged...this can get complicated, i.e. city, county, state, federal government property and facilities sometimes overlap. Coastal commissions, airport/port authorities, DOD/Navy/USMC/USA/USAF military bases, Parks, etc. 
And, it's always a good idea to run your contracts and arrangements by your attorney or corporate counsel.

Particularly in the era of social media, instant video uploads, and user generated content...minding your manners is much more complicated than "please & thank you."  Poor choices can risk the organization's reputation, their brand, and even their stock price.  

Any other tips or lessons learned? Leave a comment!