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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Flip Camera and Cell Phone Videos at Association Meetings - A Lawyer's Perspective

Did you know almost everyone attending your meeting has a video recorder with them? And they can get audio and video of almost everything without you knowing it? And the technology exists for almost anyone to post these videos on the Internet for the world to see?

Of course, you did. It can be scary.  But let's take a common sense approach to the matter.

The following note is my almost exact response to a long-time, awesome client asking about whether the association could/should stop a member from posting video of association meetings and educational courses, and whether the association could prevent such taping.  The name of the executive has been changed and we have replaced the organization name with a generic "Association Name."


Derek (Not his real name)-

Thanks for the message.

I viewed the YouTube video. I was worried that it might have been a hit piece, but was pleased at how supportive it was to [Association Name], and how it suggests that the meetings are worthwhile and a good time. Good press! In fact, you might want to keep that going...

Anyway, concerning THIS video, I recommend that you not do a cease and desist, as it will call more attention to the video and turn a fan into a critic. It is not my call, but I would leave it alone. Even better, THANK this person in order to make [Association Name] appear open and gracious, not cranky and secretive.

Concerning future videos: Yes, this is a concern. The next videographer might be a jerk and create a hit piece. If someone did, it would again call more attention to the video to try to stop it. And it could be impossible to stop, since once it hits the air, others (enemies, and there are a few) can copy and distribute it. Also, if a person recorded an entire class, or took class materials out of context, [Association Name] could be badly injured. You are right to be concerned.

I recommend [Association Name] adopt a strict, "No recording or photography of any kind at [Association Name] events/meetings/lectures/classes without the prior written consent of [Association Name]" policy, and enforce the policy. This policy would need to be made public/known at all events. Persons might still be able to secretly record, but they would be breaking the rules, and subject to ejection and court action.

Then, I would contact the person who made the above video (this person has some skills), and others who are interested in doing so, and make them part of YOUR team. Give them authority to make videos on behalf of [Association Name], subject to REVIEW AND APPROVAL by [Association Name] prior to publishing, and acknowledging them at the event (and elsewhere) for doing so. This puts them squarely on the association's team, and [Association Name] will receive tens of thousands of dollars worth of free publicity if they are well constructed. And these videos are really authentic looking, involving real members and real meetings, not overly professional so as to suggest that they are contrived.

Best regards,


Have you got your policy in place? Are you getting your fair share of free publicity? Please share your video and YouTube stories with me at I would love to see them.