With the advent of smartphones, all of which have cameras, and lower-priced video equipment, it has become inevitable in the modern world that everyone will be captured on video during a public event and most likely capture video themselves at some time or another. However, when you’re gathering video content and it turns from capturing family memories to creating broadcast programming for television or to be streamed online, privacy concerns should be taken into consideration to be sure programming is being produced in accordance with the law. If you or your station have been broadcasting for years you’re most likely pretty familiar with privacy laws, but for stations or municipalities new to gathering community content, the below information will provide the basics of what you need to know before heading out to public events with your camera in tow.
Public vs. Private
If recording video for private use, there are very few limitations on what you can and can’t capture. Since the footage won’t be shown to an outside audience, there is no real need to have individuals consent to distribution. Surprisingly though, there is still a lot of flexibility recording video in a public place when it comes to crowd shots and general background footage (with some exceptions, see the section on minors below). That being said, just because it’s outside of the office or studio doesn’t make it a public space. You will need to make sure the property you’re capturing video on is actually public. Places like malls or stadiums are owned by entities that reserve the right to withhold filming privileges. Always ask for permission if you’re certain the images captured belong to a private owner or organization.
Regardless of the footage you’re taking, keep in mind that anything created for use outside of the private realm will potentially need a release form. This is especially important for commercial usage, or video that you plan on profiting from. It’s a somewhat grey area when money isn’t involved, but I’d suggest utilizing the below release forms for either scenario to avoid any issues.
As with any document requiring signing and permissions, applicants under the age of 18 are null and void. Make sure those gathering video know that they will need to gain parental consent when interviewing a child if they’d like to use the footage in any broadcast and streaming programming. Parental consent varies from state to state when it comes to filming children. Consider discussing a potential tailored release form with a lawyer if your organization is planning on including children in public or commercial videos.
Filming Laws Vary from State to State
Though certain legal precautions are advised, states have different laws regarding video capture. Depending on the state, even the public filming of children can be done without a release form. It definitely doesn’t stop at children though; filming police for non-commercial uses is often perfectly legal, but some states like Texas are considering making it a punishable offense when a release form isn’t used. In Illinois, there are further distinctions on what is and isn’t private, limiting what you could film without individual consent. What’s more, depending on the city you’re in, you may need permits to record video in even public areas, like LA, which can charge some pretty steep rates. At the end of the day, I would strongly advise that you stay informed about your local and state video recording requirements and that you help your video crew stay informed as well, since some areas have pretty rigid requirements that go well beyond national standards.
There are two types of release forms your station or community should have on hand when heading out to gather content, a general posting for public entry ways and a document that caters to content gathered from specific individuals. Wondering when the entry signs no longer have you covered and you should opt for the full release form? If there are three or less people on camera for longer than 15 seconds, meaning you’re not just spanning the crowd at an event, opt for the full release. If you’re doing a one on one interview or the individual or group on screen is using a mic, definitely present the full release.
To help you get started, we’ve created editable examples of both release forms described so you can brand them for your needs prior to printing and taking them to an event to gather video. Merely input some of the finer details, attach a logo, and print out as many copies as you’d like. Keep the extended version on hand for when those one-on-one interview opportunities arise and post the general release anywhere a passerby could wander into your camera’s view.
Please keep in mind, the the RELEASE TEMPLATES AND ADVICE IN THIS POST ARE GIVEN FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES AND ARE NOT REPRESENTED AS LEGAL ADVICE. If you’re concerned about the legality of your organization’s project location, particularly in regards to the people being captured on video, run the forms by a lawyer in your area first. Chances are he or she will be well versed in your state’s filming and privacy laws.
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