covid-19: see advice in the Freelance.

Freelance videographers, like freelance photographers, own the copyright in their film in the absence of an agreement to the contrary. This needs special emphasis because it is the reverse of the traditional position in film and television production. There copyright usually belongs to the director/producer/production company and not the "camera operator". This arrangement is frequently quoted as "industry standard", when in fact it applies only to film and TV, not freelance videography.Under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 the Act, the author of a work, and therefore the first owner of the copyright in it, is the creator. This definition is straightforward in the case of photography - the creator is the photographer. But for moving pictures the first owner is "in the case of a sound recording or film, the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the recording or film are undertaken" ("film" is here defined as "a recording on any medium from which a moving image may by any means be produced").

Whereas in film or television a camera operator does not usually make the necessary arrangements, in video the freelance videographer is generally acting alone and so the only person who can. For news video, the freelance videographer is the creator, author and copyright owner.

Licensing video

While the ownership of copyright itself is clear, the licensing of rights is anything but. Video has multiple uses, in multiple media, and once edited can rapidly be cut into other videos. It can also be used the source of numerous still images. Many of these purposes may not be foreseen by either party at the time of licensing/commissioning and it is therefore imperative that a fee is agreed for specified uses, and those uses only, so that both know exactly where they stand.

Reasons for rates

In journalism, both client and videographer may be more familiar with still photographic rates. Video fees start at a higher level than these, not only because of the additional editing time required, but because of the essential additional investment in both time and money. This includes: training in video (and audio) technology, and also editing software and computer equipment far more powerful and sophisticated than that required for processing still pictures, and professional video cameras, all of which have a very short life cycle.

Commercial video pricing is a good starting point for estimating editorial video fees - as these figures almost certainly cover the cost of investing in, maintaining and replacing video kit, and editing time, while still providing a professional salary. A commercially shot five-minute interview would typically cost about £500.

Similar figures are frequently quoted for a day's work, either shooting or editing. The scale of rates paid to film and TV "camera operators" (see link to rates negotiated between the traditional camera operators' union BECTU and the independent producers, below) is another instructive comparator, bearing in mind that they either use company equipment, or hire out their own or rental equipment on top of their day rates.

Despite this there is no doubt freelance photographers will be put under considerable pressure to invest in and use the new technology while being paid no more than their old day rates.

Daily hire charges for professional video kit are themselves higher than the daily photographic rates paid by many national papers. Any freelance supplying video at these rates without also billing to the client hire charges for a complete set of professional video kit would be working at a loss.

More advice and links...
* On negotiating for photography / videography
* Uploaded 04/12/2121: if you have a printout, check the current version at
* Rates for the Job good, bad and ugly
* Join the NUJ to get individual advice & representation

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.