Answers to the most common requests for free video use

This page is mostly meant for beginning photographers and videographers who want to learn how to negotiate commercial deals in the media licensing market, how to stand your ground when reputable companies ask for free content, and generally understand our market.

Over the years, we have heard all forms of BS from producers, film-makers, and various clients. We literally have codes and funny names for non-cooperative (stupid) requests and arguments.

remark: our answers to these arguments in our emails would be worded more professionally. The examples below are of humorous nature. We really wish we could reply like that!

- You will get exposure and recognition - First, unfortunately, we do not eat credits. Second, is that how you are trying to convince a surgeon to do an operation for free?  Has it ever worked? Exposure and recognition is something that only cat & fail video creators want. We have plenty of views, credits, and media coverage all over the Internet, and, most importantly, in our network. Additional exposure only reduces the value of  our work and makes it less "fresh."  Credits have no value for us.

- I am broke / have no budget - use this argument in a store, I am sure you can fill a whole trolley for free and just walk away. Good luck with that.

- We have a limited budget... - if we made a mark on our office table every time we read the magical word combination "limited budget," our table would have holes by now. One of our clients who happened to have 60M+ (million) USD$ budget were the loudest to scream about "limited funds."  Can you beat that? We promise a prize if you do!

- We spent huge amounts of money on this project and don't have much left, your material is the most important part of it, please make a discount! - We just finished building and customizing our car with LED lights, epic audio system, leather interiors etc and we don't have any money left to put a somewhat important part in, the engine. Could you please send us some so we could drive to the post office and send you the footage? Thank you!

- You: What, getting a shot larva of this {insert the name of marine invertebrate} costs that much! No way, we'll get it cheaper. - We: Ok! Good luck! - You: After hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted, and there's nothing better than Youtube blurry crappy videos: - Ok, we want you to do it, but cheaper, may be use a simpler camera! And no image processing please! - We: Trying to conceal laughter, looking at multi-million dollar imaging centers used in research centers to get those images- So, sending a boat with crew for a week to get a few generic reef shots in crappy weather is worth the money, but doing incredibly complex digital imaging work is something  broke students do for free?? That's why interesting imagery doesn't end up in documentaries anymore... Who gonna pay for all those optical and vibration-isolation toys?! Taxpayers, on whose money these imaging centers are built?! And you want to capitalise on them?

- Our project is non-commercial/non-for-profit - And we are a media production team and make our living from this (expensive) occupation while living in one of the most expensive countries in the world. We are self-funded and don't have government grants, or even a santa to bring us gear, food, buildings, boats, etc.  Guess we are a match made in heaven ;) 

Besides, what is non-commercial? We have heard those strange words from feature film producers, advertisement agencies, media production companies, hotels (?!),  events and facilities charging money for entry , companies that have employees, etc.  After many years in business we still can''t figure what that means.

- It's a collaboration opportunity, we both benefit from it! - An example of a "collaboration" opportunity: a museum/aquarium/research station/university manager wants to have our videos for public streaming and in exchange we are allowed to have free access to interesting material for photography, which otherwise costs a lot in filming location fees.  Having our videos for free in exchange for reaching a lot of people is not collaboration. Only you benefit from it.

- Our project/TV channel is in public domain, free to watch, or it's not our policy to pay to content producers - directly or indirectly, a lot of people get paid in the chain between the content and the moment it reaches people. Website maintenance team, editors, video editors, sound editors, people who maintain hardware, put the cables and do all sorts of work that is hard to even list. How come you/your producer/sponsors have money for all of them but not for those who make the content that you deliver. Are you saying that even cleaners in your facility are worth the money, but the content producers are not?  And finally the worst part of it:

YOU got PAID to tell us that we won't be paid and have to read your message for free?

- We are the coolest studio/company/channel, we have enormous reach, and we are entitled to have your videos for free (this argument is usually worded in a slightly different way and combined with the no budget one) - We are flattered by your consideration to obtain our videos! But we are sorry that you are broke in this economy. We'll gladly accept your offer if you let us use space on your super-highly-viewed website and tv airing time to put  our commercials and promos so we can make some profit! You obviously suck balls at making money on  your super high reach, so we'd like to give it a go.

- You (in reference to Daniel's past involvement in the academia) are a researcher working in a top Australian university, you should have all your gear and filming material as part of your tax-funded project! - Oops,  Daniel's past photography and videography had nothing to do with university activities. All done in "spare" time and funded from his pocket. Currently he is not a student and has no formal affiliations with research institutes.

- But my previous contributors gave away all their work for free! - Disregarding the costs of our business to get to the point, each person makes his own choices, sometimes unaware of consequences. Some artists/skilled videomakers  are desperate to make at least a few bucks or don't care. Their choices destroy the media licensing market and make their own lives tougher. At some point, working at McDonalds would be a lot more prolific than being an artist, filmmaker, or photographer. In modern society its getting increasingly harder to be creative. Sorry, but the world would be a lot better and more beautiful place if you respect copyright and offer decent money to artists for the stuff that they are making. Which also makes sure you'll see new content coming out. By means of paying us you invest into your own future as well, particularly if you are dealing with media industry. Don't want to pay? Go and find low-quality cat videos on YouTube - they are the new form of free modern art and make money on them.

- I just want to share something beautiful and it's non-commercial, what' the big deal? (another way of saying "you are a greedy and selfish corporation!") - Our online clips are 1) free to watch 2) easy to give link to 3) We put quite a lot of efforts on them just for the sake of sharing something beautiful.

If you want to share something beautiful , buy license, or give link to the content, or make your own stuff. The Internet today is all about copy-pasting, reproducing, reusing over and over, repeating, remixing, and being non-imaginative in general.

- You have to give away video for conservation projects. Unlike you, we care for biodiversity loss, climate change, ocean acidification, reef issues, etc.  - Thank you for being part of the conservation movement and raising awareness. However, we ask you to look at a bigger picture and respect our position. We don't do all this work just for money. We are driven by passion and the desire to reach people as well.  Our production costs a lot and that is why it we achieve spectacular results. The bigger the projects we participate in (which all require high budgets), the more people we reach. Great images can reach millions if used wisely. What you are asking us to do is to 1) reduce quality of our work by not being able to afford to make cool images 2) reach less people with inferior images 3) not aim for reaching millions/billions. Is that what you want us to achieve with our work?

- Our project is saving the world! ll you greedy business people think about is money! Sometimes you need to loss on profits to make the world a better place and reach people - And you know what else saves the world? Wind turbines! Solar panels. Waste management systems. Reforestation programs. We could go on and on. And guess what?  All those things cost money! So does our imaging  and media production. Money is blamed for screwing up our world, but we are seeing far more good things done in the world with money than without it. You can keep accusing us of whatever you want, but we do not feel any guilt about charging money for things we believe could help people by capturing the hidden beauty of nature in the most spectacular way, educating the younger generations, and showing the importance of conservation, sustainable living, etc. We believe in our mission and have no plans of going down your pathway.

- We are conservation/charity and your work could help us spread the important message. Why you have worked with {name of a NGO/research facility that used our work to spread their message}, but refuse to give your content to us? - Firstly, huge respect for what you do!  We've seen NGOs and charities do amazing work before. However, let's spell things out if it's not obvious. What doesn't work in the real world is asking and begging for things. It's unimaginable how many times people approach us (or any business owners) bluntly asking for something without bothering to at least get to know us. That approach doesn't work! Because you have an agenda and you believe in its importance, it doesn't mean agendas of other people are not valid, even if you believe they have money/means/reasons to help you.  Now, let's see your websites and social media - there's a huge donate button everywhere. Just try to adopt our point of view for a second: somebody wants your product for free to get money!! Well' it's pointless to go in detail. There are ways and strategies to cooperate to make the world a better place. And those people/charities/NGOs you mentioned played the game in a smarter way and they got what they wanted and we got what we wanted. Just be bloody more creative than simply going "my mission is more important than yours!"

- Just upload your video to Youtube and turn on adds and you'll get paid, don't ask money from broke online video creators/distributors. - First of all, we are sorry, but you are not our target audience and we can't possibly  sustain a business from licencing videos to you. Our videos are meant for productions who need unique content. Second, there's a big difference between making and sharing cat&fail videos and professional cinematography. The later is not feasible for free online distribution in general. Third, you can't make money from online ads. Millions of views will get you may be hundreds or thousands of dollars. That doesn't even buy  us a memory card over several years . Our business expenses greatly exceed the small revenues you are alluding to.  Is that how you would approach Lamborghini sellers in attempt to get their car for a price of a Volkswagen?  Because you want a Lamborghini for low cost it doesn't mean it will happen.

- Your prices are for rich people and companies! We are individuals, small productions, we are entitled to lower license fees! - By the way, we want a submersible! But guess what? It costs money to build and run and we can't have it for a price of a small boat  just because we are a small  company. Not everything that we want can be afforded. Price cannot depend on the client. There are minimum production costs (rent, equipment, personnel, administration, taxes), time for which our employees need to be paid for, etc. Our prices are the result of business running experience. In addition, if it was possible to lower the prices for you, how do we justify higher rates for the "rich?" They will come back and tell "why exactly are we paying more?"What makes us special?"  When you see submersibles being sold for prices of toy boats let us know and we'll donate a lot of footage to you for 1 dollar.

- How do you come up with your (ridiculous) prices? We can hire a bunch of university students or any of the zillion cameramen with their Red Weapons, and get them a few Mac books for editing for cheaper!  And we are sure we can make your workflow better and more economical if we organize the whole imaging process. - Few things first:  have you heard of the saying "pay peanuts, get monkeys?" Second, ever argued about prices of the camera gear in shops just because you thought any starving university student-engineer could put one together in his basement? May be you could go to Pixar, as I am sure you think they are a bunch of students sitting by computers and ask to do a 3D cgi of your scene for a few thousand dollars...  Now, on a more serious note, almost any negotiation in the filming industry goes about this way: producers want a shot and ask us how much it costs. We tell them. They piss around for months trying to find reasons to drop the price. Any modification to our logistics they are trying to make costs them (and us) time and money. Often it's a choice by committee rather than a calculated plan by a single manager.When we agree to their way of organizing the project, we get wrong people to work with, less than ideal equipment, poor locations, the whole project is a mess (too many cooks in the kitchen scenario...), the results are less than ideal, our images get screwed up by somebody elses post-production department, and we are the ones to blame. Most importantly, producers end up spending (wasting) 3-4 times amount of price we originally quote and a lot worse result. Now think about this and try to learn from somebody's mistakes rather than being one of those cheap producers who will get monkeys for peanuts. 

- Why is RM footage so expensive? RF stock content costs like 10-20 bucks per clip and gives a lot more rights! - If you are asking such question you obviously don't know the media market and production. There's no such thing as "expensive". There are justifiable business expenses and non-justifiable. "Cheap" and "good" are  often mutually exclusive terms.

On somewhat unrelated note, everything that is good and cheap in the world involves a) abuse of someones labour (e.q. using south-east Asians who work like slaves to make your cloths/tablets/screens cheap and who can never afford all that stuff). b) destruction of the environment (right, let's destroy all rainforests for palm oil plantations so you can get your chips for smaller prices, and screw the climate change and animal wellbeing, let's make cows eat the rest of the wild places, let's contain chickens in small cages and let them breathe their own shit and urine for whole life so you can have cheap meat and eggs, just piss on the whole world to make it a cheaper place). Great, but don't wonder why the world is such an effed up place afterwards.

- (Among excuses told to our lawyer in relation to a copyright infringement) We are non-profit and doing a hard work and still putting credits for you. -  Hard work? Well, cocaine production is also hard work. Have you ever heard people trying to defend themselves in court using the hard work argument for violating the law? Well, laws are not always perfect, but they help us to stay afloat and produce more content that you happen to enjoy.

- Media is very easy to copy, asking money for simple act of copy-pasting is ridiculous! We just copy the video and show it to bunch of people at our event. - And locks in your doors are very easy to pick as well. And then we can use you bathroom, empty your fridge, take a few things here and there just because we didn't know it's not  for free. Hey, the door was literally open with such an easy lock! How can you possibly claim that we are burglars if you left all your valuable stuff inside in plain sight? You selfish house owners are all conspired against people who just take unwanted things !
Still don't get the point? - Perhaps you know a better way to make living out of media production and we will be happy to listen.

- It's "Fair Use!" - Unless you are in the news end of the media business or have a legal department who can give you professional advise, we would not recommend trying to approach this  profoundly misunderstood subject.

- We have a lot of cool projects coming up soon and (list of big-brand companies) are always talking to us! Let's do this small (cheap) deal and we'll hire you for all those epic productions! - Thank you, but we are fed up with carrots.

- We are making a pitch for the coolest documentary ever, we need your footage and tell us all your know about digital imaging, microscopy, 3d, etc etc etc! We'll hire you if we get the budget!
- Yeah, thanks, but no, thanks. That how it usually goes: you show our images to somebody, get the money for your film and then we only get to sell a few seconds of stock footage . The moment you have the money, you are getting paid regardless of the outcome and our participation... Would like to know more about digital imaging in science? We can recommend a few appropriate university courses. For free. We mean recommend for free. Nope, we do not give away our content for pitches, grant applications, or any other ways that assist people to reach their goals while we get nothing.

Bonus: the most ridiculous client with the most ridiculous excuse - we won't name that big-brand company, but producers of this TV channel approached us with the request to make an episode about our work. They were ready to hire a team of video operators with gear + boats + underwater operators for several days.  Making calculations in our heads (boats alone cost like 3k usd+ per day) we couldn't see how come they had tens of thousands of dollars to make an episode but didn't have a single one to pay for the requested several minutes of our content. The excuse? No budget. Yeah, right, good luck guys, good budget planning!

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