Licensing your phantom videos and digital images

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I understand that knowbeforeyoufly.org is not official regulation repository, but is in partnership with AUVSI, AMA, and FAA, on their FAQ section:

Q: I flew my drone for fun but ended up taking a photograph that I was able to sell later. Is this acceptable?
A: Yes, as long as the original intent of the flight was for fun.

With that being said, what does this mean?
 
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Yep, and once you sell, license, alow the promotional use of the image - you are no longer a hobbyist. You cant toggle back and forth and play the hobbyist/license thing based upon intent. You can no longer say flights are purely for recreational use, since you licensed an image. You still seem to think you have to be paid for the image in some manner. If I take a video of a political rally and give it to them, I am not a hobbyist anymore as the video is not purely for recreation.

Lets say the teacher is not being paid - s/he is still not a hobbyist. Lets say I volunteer for taking videos of a forest preserve for a deer population study and receive zero compensation - I am not a hobbyist.

I guess we will see who is right with the rules are challenged in court.

Again, I believe you are incorrect.
The FAA Is Completely Confused About What Constitutes Commercial Drone Use

The broad definition of “commercial” in the context of drone flying likely has a lot to do with the confusion as well. “The FAA has traditionally adopted a very broad view of activities that constitute commercial operations,” says lawyer Brian D. Smith of Covington & Burling LLP. “In short, receiving anything of value is considered compensation. When traditional regulatory interpretations designed for aircraft are applied to drones, it often leads to very strange results.”

One such strange result: What matters is the intent of a pilot at the time of flight, not whether money was made off the footage or photography later. “The decision on regulatory compliance is made at the time of flight,” says Loretta Alkalay, aviation attorney and adjunct professor at Vaughn College of Aeronautics—meaning that even if a hobbyist later makes money on footage shot in a “for fun” flight, it can’t later be deemed “commercial,” and vice-versa.

That doesn’t mean that hobbyists can simply fly, sell the photos, and plead that they remain hobbyists if the authorities contact them. “It can be used as evidence. If you’re constantly flying and selling your photos, at some point the FAA could say you’re in the business of selling them,” says Alkalay. Further, the videos could likely be used as evidence of flight that violates the FAA rules for model aircraft, such as flying above 400 feet, or flying too close to a airport.
Mrs Alkalay seems to indicate the same position I am taking. You can shoot video as a hobbyist and later receive compensation for use of that video/photo provided you didn't expect/plan to receive any compensation at the time of flight. The intent at the time of flight was hobby. However, flying knowing or expecting you will be selling it, is indeed, commercial. And just because you sold ONE photo, that doesn't mean every flight from then on is deemed commercial. However, as I said, you can't keep doing it and expect to get away with it as an avoidance maneuver.

The same situation occurs with hobby photographers. If you snap a photo and post it online and someone later wants to buy it from you, that doesn't mean you now have to go out and get a business license to use your phone to shoot photos of your kids baseball game.

But, as you said (and I agree), until all this gets a judge's ruling, its all an amorphous collage of mixed opinions about an overreaching FAA rulemaking shoved down our throats with little to no discussion or review.
 
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As for me, it is he said, she said. If I take a picture or video and ever post them, have at it. I am posting them for free and if someone wants them, it is a freaking picture, take them. If they sell them I could care less. And if someone takes one of my pictures, crops it, and then sells it, they altered it from the original, not me. I guess I could put a big old watermark over it that says, "FAA will fine you" and leave it on there. And if I do take a picture and someone crops it and uses it, I could care less. All this stuff gave me a headache. Maybe if the government paid as much attention to YouTube, as the FAA, they would fine people and fix the trillion dollar deficit. Seems like a whole lot of people are more worried about a picture someone takes, than copyright infringement, peer to peer violations and other stuff. No more post from me ever again. I will keep my photos with Photoshop and Lightroom enhancements, and not post or read anything else. Thanks all for anyone that may have assisted me in the past, but all this is stupid. I may have to look into Jostens Yearbooks and sue them for using my picture to make money and put it in other yearbooks, ridiculous...
 
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I think the interest in my videos comes mainly from my focus on sites that are, or could be, historic landmarks. No doubt there is much I could do to improve them - but a popular one seems to be:
It is rather difficult to make an old building look exciting or interesting, so sometimes you have to fly fast and/or close and be sure to provide an establishing shot before you get close.

I do the best I can to avoid people - not just for safety reasons - I don't like people in my footage. Like when I flew over the Naval Academy I made sure they were closed. When I flew over Fort McHenry over a year ago I was "politely" informed by the park rangers that there was a new moratorium against drones over national parks issued by their director (like I got that memo). So I removed that video. Disclaimer... I am not suggesting that anyone do this, but the historic registry does provide some ideas. At least for me - it beats watching a flight over my neighborhood.

When I flew over the Basilica in Washington D.C. some guy wanted to make and sell postcards from the image because he knew the Pope was coming. I did not get involved in that, and frankly was not interested in making pocket change. I was more concerned with my rights to my work.

This was an amazing video. bravo!
 
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Be very, very careful, gcoxusa.

The rules have changed even in the last few months. Letting anyone "use" your footage (as a gift, no charge, for free) immediately takes us out of the "hobbyist" category whether we realize it or not. As it stands now... as soon as "money is made"... directly or indirectly...the rules change. e.g. You "give" your footage to say a company that specializes in farming irrigation. That company then uses your footage to promote their business. Then technically revenue is or can be generated as a result of the aerial footage. So that footage must be or have been obtained from a drone pilot with a 333 exemption from the FAA. (Stinks I know but it is what it is.)

If a whistle is blown the "company" just has to ceses and desist using the footage. However the FAA can come after the pilot. Please understand I'm certainly not trying to be a Negative Nancy about this. I would just hate for anyone to get into hot water, or worse...fined, because they were simply unaware of the current FAA rulings.

Here's what "unauthorized flights" - meaning without a 333 exemption - could get you...
FAA seeks record $1.9 million fine from drone company SkyPan
Just remember, If you make a nickle, the government wants a dime of it!
 

ianwood

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I do not feel that is true. You, as a hobby photographer, can sell or license your works without being labeled "commercial".

The separation comes with intent. If you record or shoot photos or video for a hobby, there is nothing stopping somoene contacting you later to request use in a commercial production. This does not suddenly thust you into the commercial photographer category If, on the other hand, you shoot or record video with the intent to sell it, then that IS commercial in nature.

This is exactly correct.
 
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IANAL, but if you give your drone photos or video to anyone else you should have them indemnify you by signing an agreement not to sell, lease, rent or in any other way generate money from your drone photos/videos. Of course you should check with a lawyer.

Kevin H.
 
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Don't want to get involved in this discussion AT ALL, but "as a beginning business", you can lose astronomical amounts of money, per the IRS, for the first three years you are in business. It is after that, that they get involved. You can write off a whole bunch, and then the business "fails". There are many unscrupulous operators that open up a new business every three years to take advantage of this loophole. You would not believe, for example, how many luxury trips to the exotic places have been written off in this way. As a matter of fact, since you are "interested in historical places", just think of all the places you could "visit for the purpose of photographing monuments to further my business". :>)) Actually, that probably isn't a good idea to plant, because there are many who would run with it. :>((
 
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It seems you are an excellent photographer. Teach us good tips and show us how and what did you adjust to get such great results.

In response to your question I forgot to mention one thing probably because I do it out of habit. And hopefully this won't be too far off topic. But whenever I am preparing to create an aerial film I always create some kind of storyboard. I want to know ahead of time exactly what I intend to shoot and that includes the launch site, the angles, altitude, and best time of day for lighting. That is important if you are creating a video worth keeping. If you're flying over your backyard – forget it.

It is difficult to plan all this if you are arriving at a location that you have never seen before. For example, when I decided to film the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park I used Google Earth. I was able to take a virtual walk around the entire perimeter of the park and identify some secluded launch sites. I knew the security would not allow me in the park. That place is huge (over 200 acres) and I knew my old shaky P2V did not have the range to cover it all. The rides are so huge that one could not get the entire roller coaster in the shot without an aerial view. My goal was to film the most popular rides without flying over people. Picking up the actual audio presented another problem. And for that I used a separate camera. In most cases that would not be a concern but for the amusement park I wanted realistic audio. The main point is that your audio/music selection is just as important as the image.
Six Flags:

Safety has always been a major concern of mine from day 1 because the very first Phantom I bought years ago fell from the sky like a brick 5 minutes into the second flight. As an Air Force veteran and an airplane mechanic I can assure you I understand flight and technical specifications. I followed all preflight directions to the letter. But I digress ... that was a long time ago and I know this has happened to others.
 

alokbhargava

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In response to your question I forgot to mention one thing probably because I do it out of habit. And hopefully this won't be too far off topic. But whenever I am preparing to create an aerial film I always create some kind of storyboard. I want to know ahead of time exactly what I intend to shoot and that includes the launch site, the angles, altitude, and best time of day for lighting. That is important if you are creating a video worth keeping. If you're flying over your backyard – forget it.

It is difficult to plan all this if you are arriving at a location that you have never seen before. For example, when I decided to film the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park I used Google Earth. I was able to take a virtual walk around the entire perimeter of the park and identify some secluded launch sites. I knew the security would not allow me in the park. That place is huge (over 200 acres) and I knew my old shaky P2V did not have the range to cover it all. The rides are so huge that one could not get the entire roller coaster in the shot without an aerial view. My goal was to film the most popular rides without flying over people. Picking up the actual audio presented another problem. And for that I used a separate camera. In most cases that would not be a concern but for the amusement park I wanted realistic audio. The main point is that your audio/music selection is just as important as the image.
Six Flags:

Safety has always been a major concern of mine from day 1 because the very first Phantom I bought years ago fell from the sky like a brick 5 minutes into the second flight. As an Air Force veteran and an airplane mechanic I can assure you I understand flight and technical specifications. I followed all preflight directions to the letter. But I digress ... that was a long time ago and I know this has happened to others.
Thank you so much. Got a chance to learn from you.
 
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Let's be honest here, the FAA is way behind the curve on this issue. Rather than directing $2 million fines against aerial videographers who want to license their footage, wedding photographers and real estate agents, they might do better to consider revising our lightweight crafts as "micro-drones" rather than fearing the manned upside down flying lawnmowers we've seen cropping up on YouTube being used for pizza delivery, ridden by soon to be deceased enthusiasts. Likewise requiring a commercial mini drone pilot interested in filming a wedding to have a full fledged pilot's license is ridiculous, and also merely encourages lawbreaking. I've seen a bunch of commercial airline pilots getting their 333 exemption as a "stock footage aerial agency". Is that even close to fair? Here is the article about this sensible legislation and the proposed reasonable test required to become a commercial drone photog. I think it's very reasonable and we should all support it before aerial videographers start going to prison for real estate videos and licensing footage to companies who ask for it. The ship of state is dumb and slow but eventually it will turn.

Why Micro Drone Bill Would Improve Air Safety


I frequently get requests from a variety of organizations requesting to use images from my Phantom videos seen on Youtube. For me the aerial productions are just a hobby but it's getting to the point where I feel like I need something in writing. Just to be clear - this is not a situation where I am contracted by a client to shoot footage. I did a Google search and found some example agreements but the documents just didn't fit my situation. Of course I can do some editing, but I would like to see some examples of licensing agreements if anyone is doing this, or perhaps point me to a resource on the web.
 
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Please read there is no exception when it comes to the FAA and they monitor Youtube and these blogs, all your answers are here: Section 333 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

if theres no exception when it comes to the faa, how is it that casey neistat has been flying in manhattan (taking off from a boat in central park), new orleans, san francisco and even crashing a couple times?

all of that documented in his popular vlog on youtube...
 
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I am a little confused on flyover stuff, and glad I have plenty of open fields to fly over. I saw the post where someone flew over an accident, after being stuck in traffic to get an idea of how long the wait was, or something to that extent. People were very rude and he was trying to ask if it was legal or illegal. Calling them a loser and stuff. Or, it is the polar opposite for another video for some people giving accolades and such. Seems like if someone chimes in after someone called the poster a name, everyone jumps on and pig piles about what a bad person they were for doing that.

Also, if someone says a comment which they are a great photographer and love the video, they are chastised for commending that person. I see posts where one person will insult and chastise someone for flying over a city or populated area. And in another post, they will commend someone for a fantastic flight over the beach that is crowded. In essence, it is the same venue, flying over a crowded area, but if the viewer likes the setting, they have a positive comment, and if not, they have a negative comment and call the person a name. If the FAA sees their video, finds them and fines them - great. If not - great. But all this speculation about being a loser or insulting is not what I think the creator or moderator of this site intended for everyone.

I have learned a lot in the short time of reading posts. Forest, gators and fields are all that surround me. Not long ago, I could not get the RC to update, and several posts said to just update it through the app, and it was done. Learned if your bird takes off, flip the switch to "A" mode and bring it home. Use the pre-flight checklist to go-by and have not had any issues, so I have learned a lot. I also learned that many people want to insert their opinion with an iron fist even at the expense of insulting and name calling.

Thanks to all which I have read their posts and helped me. Just thinking out loud and will be certain someone will tell me to STFU, but thanks anyway for all your help.
 
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if theres no exception when it comes to the faa, how is it that casey neistat has been flying in manhattan (taking off from a boat in central park), new orleans, san francisco and even crashing a couple times?

all of that documented in his popular vlog on youtube...
I think if someone follows someone else, they are all for it. But, if you don't then you are a person which the FAA is going to investigate because you are wrong. And I read some of the comments and a few of the people commenting on how great it was are on here and other posts and insulting.
Doesn't matter because I will still try to learn but totally agree with you.
 
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I am moderating a panel discussion next week at the UAV Summit in Shenzhen that will be in front of regulators (mostly from China). The main problem is that regulators have a mission to protect the public, but the regulations are mostly based on commercial vs. non-commercial activity which has nothing to do with protecting anyone. In fact, it makes the situation worse.

Any unlicensed individual can fly freely anywhere he wants (thus potentially putting the population at risk), while the professionals who have training and are licensed need to go through formal approval processes to have the right to fly in those same areas.

The commercial aspect has nothing to do with safety and it is time regulators make the distinction.

This should be a fun discussion.

Cheers
 
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Any unlicensed individual can fly freely anywhere he wants (thus potentially putting the population at risk), while the professionals who have training and are licensed need to go through formal approval processes to have the right to fly in those same areas.

Cheers[/QUOTE]

Not true. You can't fly anywhere you want, at least according to the current FAA rules. But let's face it, there are many who DO just that, some are very good pilots, some are clueless. Getting the cert for commercial use will insure a pilot has at least made an effort to learn something about his craft and the airspace we all share.
 
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Any unlicensed individual can fly freely anywhere he wants (thus potentially putting the population at risk), while the professionals who have training and are licensed need to go through formal approval processes to have the right to fly in those same areas.

Cheers

Not true. You can't fly anywhere you want, at least according to the current FAA rules. But let's face it, there are many who DO just that, some are very good pilots, some are clueless. Getting the cert for commercial use will insure a pilot has at least made an effort to learn something about his craft and the airspace we all share.[/QUOTE]
Sorry, forgot to specify this applied to Hong Kong. Completely agree that a certification ensures quality control, but that is completely unrelated to the commercial aspect, which happens to be the main focus of most regulations.

Shooting for commercial reasons has nothing to do with being a competent flier. Regulators are mixing both concepts, and I believe this is a global fact, not only in this part of the world.

Cheers
 
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There is some confusion and you are mixing two concepts.

How you edit someone else's photo (taken with a drone or not) has no bearing on whether you are a commercial flyer or not.

You can edit a "hobbyist" photo/video.
You can edit a photo/video someone shot for a commercial magazine or movie.

If you do the edits for fun and don't accept payment (direct or indirect) you are a hobbyist (or just a nice guy) EDITOR.
If you accept payment for the edits, you are likely considered a commercial EDITOR.

Neither action changes your flying status. You are still a hobbyist flyer.

To exit the realm of being a hobbyist flyer, you must do something considered "commercial" with your FLYING.

You can be a hobbyist flyer and a commercial photographer.
You can be a commercial flyer and a hobbyist photographer.

To further confuse things, you can be both a commercial and hobbyist photographer. How you use a given photo/video will determine the nature of the given work.

For flying, you need a license to be a commercial flyer. So once you cross into that realm there are rules which will apply to all your flights.


And while I appreciate the generous offer, I am already married. :)


So if I understand correctly - let's say I attend an outdoor wedding of a couple friends and I send the drone up to capture some aerial shots of the proceedings - maybe the ceremony, maybe just of the big tent, or the facilities. Then - being a good friend - I give a copy of my footage to the bride and groom - completely free. I also give them a wedding gift separately.

A month later, unbeknownst to me, the bride and groom collect all the photos and videos they can from all of the guests and they give them to a videographer and pay him to put together a video of their special day. Some of my drone footage makes it into the video.

By the interpretation you are describing - everybody who took a photo that ended up in that video is now no longer a hobbyist photographer. They have all become commercial photographers? Or is this only applicable to the guy that contributed the drone footage?

It seems like an unfair law that wouldn't hold up in court. Would there not have to at least be an a attempt of some sort - even indirectly - for the pilot to become enriched by the work for him to lose his hobbyist status?

I'm sure the rule is written the way it is to try to close the door on those that have been working around rev system by flying their drone for free and only charging for their editing - but the problem with that is once the rule is on the books - it can be applied indiscriminately against a much wider audience than it was ever meant to. Hell - all someone has to do is collect all uncopyrighted aerial imagery from social media, add them to an online photo gallery of their own and assign a price to them - and he's essentially instantly revoked the hobbyist status from thousands of photographers without their knowledge, consent or enrichment!
 

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