Can I promote my freelance business using video I created at previous employer?

erau474's picture
Last seen: 4 weeks 7 hours ago
Joined: 04/11/2018 - 9:16am

Hello all!

I recently broke free of the 9-5 grind and I'm hustling as a freelance videographer/photographer/designer/mow your lawn/make you coffee/fill in the blank. Anyway, I want to promote my best video work but most of it was done at a previous employer, a small firm in my hometown. I was the sole producer/shooter/editor for this company and I used my own gear to shoot it, although I don't know if that makes a difference. My question is whether I can post these videos/photos to social media and my online portfolio to promote my freelance business. I don't think my old employer would care since I left on good terms, but I really don't want any legal trouble. Any insights or experience with this would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 4 days 1 hour ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
Plus Member

I'm not an attorney. That said, according to my reading of the U.S. Copyright law -- -- you created what is known as a "work for hire." As such, the copyright belongs to your employer unless you and he agreed in writing to the contrary. So the answer would be "no," you don't have the right to use the material you worked on.

I would speak with the former employer to see if it's o.k. with him for you to use the material. Point out that you will give credit to his company in your reel and that he will be getting what amounts to free advertising. Let him see the reel before your post it anywhere so he can see how good you've made him and his business look and so he can see there is no proprietary information being disclosed. If it were me, I would go on camera at the beginning of the reel and say "I'm Joe Smith and much of what you're about to see was developed while I was employed for five years as videographer and editor at the Bob's Your Uncle tractor plant in Spider's Breath, Wyoming."

paulears's picture
Last seen: 2 days 4 hours ago
Joined: 11/05/2006 - 8:36am

I Agree with jack - the same thing applies in the UK too - anything produced here in the course of your employment belongs to your employer. It's actually normally in everyone's contract of employment.

davepd2's picture
Last seen: 4 weeks 1 day ago
Joined: 02/14/2018 - 11:11am

I agree with both Jack and Paul, but maybe you can create a demo reel using clips from your previous work to help showcase your talents on your website. So, instead of posting the final work in its entirety, create a video of clips to show what you can do.

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skeppla22's picture
Last seen: 1 week 2 days ago
Joined: 05/12/2018 - 12:53pm

That's a very fine line and would also depend on what you had filmed. What type of business was it? Was it a video company that employed you to specifically film things for them? If so, your work is their property. Or was it a non-film industry business where you randomly filmed things on your own similar to if you took random pictures for fun? Just to be safe, since you left on good terms, ask them if it's ok to use your work for your film reel. They shouldn't mind, but make sure to get it in writing! That's very important.

JCTullo's picture
Last seen: 21 hours 54 min ago
Joined: 01/16/2018 - 12:31pm
Plus Member

If I am working for hire on something I am pleased with, enough to put it on my reel or web site, I will ask the client in advance for permission to do so.  Of course, I will already know if it is sensitive information, or if they are a particularly private ot legalistic company, in which case, I don't even approach them. I do give them a "plug" when I post their video, so I am not claiming it as my own.  Most clients are flattered and delighted to have an additional outlet for their content.