When you watch a funny fail video from a wedding online — or for the old-school, on America’s Funniest Home Videos — does it ever cross your mind how the brides and grooms in question might feel about it? One bride in San Francisco would like us to do so. She’s suing her videographer after footage of her drunk husband faltering and falling down as he tried to remove her garter belt wend viral last year.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks compensation for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” from George Street Photo and Video, according to NBC. The video shows the groom hamming it up to Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and occasionally falling on his bride instead of performing the ritual garter removal, followed by a shot of the bride visibly upset. It has been taken down several times but keeps popping up on various sites.
In a statement to NBC, George Street doesn’t exactly confirm or deny that it was responsible for posting this video: “We are very disappointed and upset by this situation, and we have spent considerable time removing our video from the internet,” it said.
The thing is, it was entirely within the videographer’s rights to post the video, even if it’s probably not the greatest marketing idea, in terms of building trust with future clients.
“Whenever a videographer or photographer approaches a couple with a contract, generally they are getting paid money to take the images, but they’re going to be the copyright owner of the images by default,” attorney Robert Schenk, who runs the site WeddingIndustryLaw.com. “They can do whatever they want with it.”
Contracts also often cover the use of the couple’s likeness, for which they may sign a release, so that the videographer can use their images or video for marketing purposes. Depending on the state, if they don’t sign such a release, they might be able to sue for “misappropriation of license,” Schenk explained. But since this lawsuit is instead claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress, it’s likely the couple did sign a release.
This is going to be difficult to argue, Schenk said, because the bride (who has filed as “Jane Doe” to protect her identity) has to prove not only the intention behind posting the video, but also that the conduct was “outrageous and egregious.”
“From the outset, I would argue that posting a funny video, in which everybody seems to be having a good time, on YouTube is not egregious and outrageous,” he said. “What could make this egregious and outrageous is if the couple were Mormon and there was an underlying understanding that, ‘We’re Mormon and we’re not allowed to drink. Please don’t post this on the internet or it’s going to ruin us.‘”
What all of this demonstrates is that brides and grooms really need to look closely at their vendors’ contracts. If you’re particularly worried about becoming the next viral sensation, you can negotiate to purchase the copyright to your video ahead of time. This would also give you the ability to sell your photos or videos. This isn’t exactly a common practice, Schenk said. Without buying the copyright, you could just have the contract stipulate that the videographer or photographer cannot use your footage or images for marketing.
By the way, if you don’t own the copyright, you’re technically not supposed to post your own wedding video to the internet, because you’ve purchased a license for private use only.
“I don’t know any videographer that would sue based on copyright infringement,” Schenk said. “Then again, I’ve never heard of this type of lawsuit [like the San Francisco bride] either.”
If you haven’t negotiated anything of the like, and something really embarrassing goes down at the wedding, you could try to bargain for the copyright after the fact. That’s when you have to hope your vendors are nice, upstanding people. Quips Schenk, “Then it’s a matter of, ‘How much you want to pay me, lady?’ ”