MostlyLisa’s viral video and the rights of online content providers

Being the case that I am the son of two lawyers, and one of them is a specialist in intellectual property law and copyright law, I *should* be able to post a really coherent response here. I am just not going to post it at 3:00am, when I am exhausted and haven’t had enough time to digest and reflect on the issue. I am actually going to have to ruminate about it for a while. But since I like to draft some content and then time-stamp it, I’ll just jot down my thoughts and if something better/nicer comes up, I’ll post it.

The gist of the matter can be found on Lisa’s post, as well as a rather lengthy discussion (28 comments by the time I checked). Lisa is a Vancouver blogger whom I know in person, we have hung out a few times, and I really like her sense of humor. So I was a bit baffled when she took flack for a video she did of a private party. However, I can see how things could be complicated.

Quick thoughts…

a). I think the anger of the party organizers came from the video going viral. With my readership, I am really not very worried about whether people are going to see my photos or videos. But when the readership is amplified to the Nth power, THAT’S when things get problematic. WHY? Because the perception of the organizers of the party feel they are no longer in control. When the readership is smaller, you still feel that you can post whatever and get away with it.

b) The other thing that may have upset them as well was the permission issue. I don’t get from Lisa’s post that permissions were clearly given (Lisa says that she didn’t ask, and in this case, the fact that nobody explicitly told her “please don’t film this” doesn’t preclude their right to privacy, in my opinion – it would be worthwhile checking if my Dad agrees with me, and whether Canadian intellectual property law specialists agree as well).

c) I also think that this is a transnational issue. Canada as Lisa was traveling there coming from Canada (from what I remember – and also, being a Canadian blogger), and therefore would have to comply with Canadian laws. And US because she was filming on American soil, and therefore, she would have to comply with US laws. We would need to examine it from the perspective of both countries’ intellectual property law. This is NOT an easy task.

d) My advice in general, and the way I tend to operate is, when in doubt, ask. (Sometimes I don’t, and I get in trouble as well!) There are now photos of me floating around on Flickr and on the internet. I used to have my photos set to “Only my friends” and now many of them are pretty public. Does that make me happy? Not really. But do I think that I’ll be going viral? Not really, either!

The problem with these topics is that Web 2.0 is still evolving, and therefore the public/private boundaries are getting blurred. There is an overload of information and people are not really prepared to deal with the legal implications of online activities simply because this medium is evolving at lightning speed. Heck, I am learning as I type this! The more I read, the more I learn.

Educating oneself is always a really, really good idea. I have thought about this issue for a long time and I have decided that I need to educate myself more about the platform, about Web 2.0, about the way in which social media works. But more than anything, I think we need to educate ourselves on the complexities of human behavior. What seemed to be a really harmless action on the part of Lisa became something she got flack for. Was this flack warranted?… I am not really sure. But one thing does exude from Lisa’s post – she didn’t intend for the silly video to have any negative consequences. Let’s not forget that!

Related posts:

  1. Guest post: Sharing content online and the Creative Commons License by Steve Anderson
  2. Proposition 8 upheld: A sad day in gay and human rights
  3. Proposition 8, gay rights and the movie Milk
  4. Differentiated rights? The unfortunate passing of Proposition 8
  5. I won a Flip video camera! Thanks to Reachd and TechVibes!

Comments (0)

Ryan CousineauJune 19th, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Not being a lawyer, but understanding the issues roughly as Mostly Lisa posted them, I suspect she’s legally in the right.

The real issues are, essentially, the moral/social issues. There’s a question of a social expectation that you won’t videotape your friends and acquaintances unless you have permission, and there’s the question of whether you have a moral obligation to respect a social convention. In terms of social punishments, she probably won’t get invited to any more parties at that house.

Barbara DodukJune 20th, 2008 at 12:03 am

I find the web has become the wild frontier. HAHA I would be curious to hear what your folks say.

monicahamburgJune 20th, 2008 at 2:13 am

I really like this post, Raul. Especially the open-endedness of the question posted. Law is like that in my experience, somewhat elusive (though I imagine my lawyer friends would beg to differ). You should get Jeremy Costin to weigh in on this.

Jeffery SimpsonJune 20th, 2008 at 4:42 pm

There’s no legal reason for her not posting the video. Had the party hosts told people that there would be no photography/video, then they could have ejected her from the house for taking the photo but not made her delete the photo or control what was done with it.

It’s a 100% social issue, and I’m frankly shocked to see it get so much attention. I think people are reading far too much into the issue, beyond whether or not she should be polite and respect the hosts’ wishes or still and use the video.

It’s one of those cases when because it happens online people don’t know what to do, even though off-line common sense should clearly apply.

RaulJune 21st, 2008 at 10:01 am

Thanks all for chiming in. I haven’t had a chance to speak to my folks, but I would REALLY like to hear what they think, because from the legal perspective (and from my experience assisting my parents in legal proceedings), I have a sense that the issue is way more complex, but there is definitely a large social and “perception” component.

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