The time is now to counter the troubling proliferation of socially irresponsible video online, and that starts with each of us. That’s why I’ve put together what I believe is the first-ever, “Pledge for Online Video Responsibility,” which I hope can help both online video professionals and enthusiasts be more mindful and considerate of others.
Our central mission is to create an environment in the online video space built on mutual respect and trust. We believe that anyone who participates with online video – be they a professional or enthusiast, a creator or contributor, a service provider or user, a publisher or marketer, analyst or blogger, evangelist or critic, entertainer or newscaster – carries a obligation to be mindful of others and behave in an ethically responsible manner. We realize that doing so is essential to providing healthy growth for online video as an industry, and for each of us as part of a larger community.
We also realize that online video provides us with many benefits, some of which we have grown to depend on. That is why we must be committed to keeping online video a prosperous industry; and it starts with each of us making a commitment to learning, practicing, sharing, and leading with responsible online video activities.
For these reasons and others, I solemnly pledge to do no harm to others through my online videos and to act in an ethical manner with any and all online video activities, be they of a personal or professional nature.
I Pledge To Do The Following:
I will not encourage “cyber-bullying”
- I will not video record and post a video online of anyone I know is being intimidated, harassed, assaulted, or harmed in any way that 1) the person neither gave their consent to do so, 2) I cannot defend as being news-worthy, or 3) I am not willing to share as evidence of criminal activity with law enforcement or other local authority figures.
- I will not harass, threaten, or intentionally defame anyone in an online video I am responsible in any way for creating.
- I will not harass, threaten or defame anyone with my comments posted in or around an online video, or linking to an online video.
- I will not create or publish any video to encourage personal attacks against any person or persons featured in a video, or referred to in a video.
- I will not create, publish, or promote any video that is done for the primary intention of causing emotional suffering to someone else.
- I will alert authorities to any act of cyber-bullying captured through online video, and gather and report relevant evidence to local authorities.
I will fully respect others right to privacy
- I will not video record a private individual without that person’s permission.
- I will not edit or remix a video meant for online consumption that involves individuals who are not public figures, or not in a situation that a reasonable person would deem to be “news-worthy,” without each of those individuals’ expressed consent (including wavering their privacy rights).
- I will not share nor distribute a video created by anyone else that is marked “private;” and is not already on a public website, or any publicly accessible location on the Internet.
I will respect the special protection of minors
- I will never video record minors without the expressed permission of parent or guardian responsible for the minor’s well being.
- I will never video record on a school campus where minors are present, without the expressed permission of the parent or guardian, and of the school administration.
- I will never exploit a minor for personal gain by recording, creating, editing, publishing, distributing or promoting a video featuring any children.
I will respect others’ reputation
- I will not set out to portray anyone in a situation that would appear to a reasonable audience as being highly inappropriate or offensive.
- I will not portray anyone in a false light, nor set out to harm anyone’s reputation or character.
I will respect others’ right of publicity
- I will not use anyone’s image or likeness in my video to imply that they are endorsing or promoting the message of the video without first getting written permission from that person or persons.
- I will not use any video of a person’s image or likeness for commercial or promotional purposes without first securing a signed written permission.
I will read and follow video service provider guidelines
- I will commit to providing any service provider community, including YouTube and other video-sharing-sites (free or paid), video platforms, social media websites, and community-based websites, with my best efforts to comply with both their Community Guidelines and their Terms of Service.
- I will make an effort to notify such service providers of any online videos I come across that I find to be patently offensive and potentially harmful to others, and that may violate the service provider’s guidelines
I will be transparent
- I will reveal my true identity (my actual full name) in any video I publish and in any comments around any video that I may post (either publicly or privately).
- I will provide my audience with a legitimate means of contacting me for any video I post to a public site, and for any online comments to a video or video-sharing site.
- I will be honest with others about my true intentions with shooting and publishing video that involves either private or public individuals, or groups.
- I will inform the affected parties when I am being paid by an advertiser or other sponsor.
I will show a respect the truth and the facts
- I will respect the authenticity of the video images and the message.
- If a video is meant to be a parody or a satire, I will clearly state in plain view of my intended audience that it should be treated as such.
- I will not identify my video with false headlines, thumbnails, keywords, or other copy as a means of misleading my audience as to the actual content and purpose of the video.
- Differences of opinion with others in my video will be dealt with by clearly differentiating between what is my opinion and the provable facts.
- In all matters pertaining to video recording public and private individuals, I will maintain my objectivity and integrity at all times.
- I am committed to understanding copyright law and the term “Fair Use” to determine the circumstances of when I can feature someone else’s copyrighted work in my video without attribution.
- When so required, I will properly attribute other people’s work in my own video
- I commit to understanding what is meant by “Creative Commons” and identifying how to secure the permission to use other person’s copyrighted work that I will use in my video
- I will obey all licensing guidelines for featuring other people’s videos or any form of media in my own video creation.
- I will learn the basics of trademark law, so as not to misuse another person’s trademark rights in my video or to confuse the public.
- I will seek legal advice, when necessary to ensure compliance with Trademark and Copyright laws and the intellectual and other rights of others with a valid claim under these Laws.
- I will learn about local, state and federal laws that govern the creation, publication, and distribution of online video and commit to following such Laws.
- I will follow legislation involving or affecting online video, or news sources that provide information on such legislation.
- I commit to respecting the rights of others and to intervene when necessary when Laws violate such rights and to act at all times in a socially responsible manner.
- If I am a witness to anyone in the act of video recording an unwilling participant (who is not a public figure and not in a situation that a reasonable person would consider to be “news-worthy,”) I will inform the videographer of the inappropriate action and/or report the incident to law enforcement.
- I will engage others in the online video community in a dialogue to emphasize the rights of all parties and the obligations of those who record, create, edit, publish, distribute, or otherwise promote a videos
My actions are guided by these principles:
- To build trust in those who rely on my independence and objectivity in making and evaluating online videos of others
- To act in a responsible manner and always consider the consequences of my actions before making decisions
- To defend my actions if questioned by others, or if they were to appear in any public media or venue.
- To encourage others to join me in using online video responsibly, thoughtfully, and respectfully – both towards others and ourselves
Special Thanks and Helpful Links
A special thanks goes out to my two editorial advisors on this Pledge For Online Video Responsibility:
- Professor Steven Mintz, Professor at California State Polytecnic State University. Steve has covered and taught ethics for over 20 years. He also runs the blogs Ethics Sage and Workplace Ethics Advice – which cover modern ethics issues in business and society. (Steven recently featured me in his article, “Cyber-bullying Through Social Media Threatens School Safety.“)
- Gordon P. Firemark, entertainment and media lawyer based out of Los Angeles, California. Gordon’s credentials include: Producer and host of , a podcast for artists and professionals in the entertainment industries; Author of The Podcast, Blog and New Media Producer’s Legal Survival Guide, and he teaches Business Law at Loyola Marymount University, and Theatre Law in the innovative Online Entertainment LLM program at Southwestern Law School.
I also encourage people interested in learning more about ethics and professional conduct with online video to check out the following resources:
- Code of Ethics for Bloggers, Social Media and Content Creators. An excellent draft piece by digital media business owner, web developer, and blogger Morten Rand-Hendriksen out of British Columbia, Canada.
- SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) Code of Ethics – As Gordon is good to remind me, video production (whether for online or other use) is often very similar to other forms of journalism. “Not all video makers are journalists, but all can benefit from some understanding of how and why journalists do things the way they do.” he says.