I work for a company that produces recordings of conference lectures. From what I can tell, there are at least three parties that can lay claim to the copyright on the recorded lectures.
- The recording company (my company)
- The conference organizer
- The speaker
The recording company records video of the speaker and their slides presentation at no cost, explicitly for the exclusive right to sell the content. This is always true. (When working under a service for hire scenario, there is always a written agreement that explicitly denies the recording company the copyright, so I do not want to focus on that).
The recording company is doing the work, creating the original work, without any consideration (money or payment of some kind) from either the conference organizer or the speaker. This seems to support that the copyright belongs to the recording company, assuming at least spoken permission to record was given, and is supported by another answer.
There is a somewhat unique set of particulars that may affect who owns the copyright, and not all dealings with conference organizers or speakers include them. These particulars lead to questions:
- The speaker usually has a signed contract with the conference organizer allowing the lecture to be recorded, but sometimes they do not. Does the speaker have a claim on the copyright if their permission to record is only spoken? Only implied (i.e. they are clearly being recorded, with a huge camera in their face)? What if a written contract does not explicitly mention the capture of their slides as well?
The recording company pays a "royalty" on future sales to the conference organizer, which is
- sometimes only spoken,
- only sometimes a specific percentage,
- but sometimes very explicitly written.
Does paying a "royalty" automatically imply that the recording company is admitting non-ownership of the copyright? Is using the word "royalty" especially important in this case, or is there a benign word that could be used that is not associated with copyrights? Does the specificity of these payments agreements affect copyright ownership?
- Explicit written contracts often include a perpetuating allowance that sales may continue indefinitely so long as the "royalty payments are met on time". Is this a legal contract?
- Does the phrase "exclusive right to sell" affect the copyright ownership?
I know copyright varies by country, so let's focus only on US law, because that is where most conferences are recorded.