This week, I’m preparing my lecture notes for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Conference, which takes place this weekend (September 9-11) in Denver. Since conferences are on my mind, let’s take a minute to review some important do’s and don’ts about workshop and conference-related blogging and social media shares:
1. Presentations, Slides, & Handouts Are Subject to Copyright.
Everyone loves a great presentation, conference workshop, or writing class. When you attend a fantastic workshop, it’s tempting to blog or share the content on social media—both because you found it useful and because you want to help others who couldn’t attend the event in person.
However: in almost all cases, workshops, lectures, and other presentations are the intellectual property of the speaker who presented them. Reproducing a speaker’s handouts, powerpoint slides, or content (including recordings of the event) without the speaker’s permission is almost always a copyright violation.
Sharing your general impressions, or a helpful tip or two, is fine. Speakers love to hear that you enjoyed the class, and generally appreciate people blogging, tweeting or otherwise sharing a quote or a sound byte (or even a few). Praise the speaker and the workshop all you’d like on social media (or your blog) – but don’t reproduce the presentation content or post the handouts unless you’ve requested (and received) the speaker’s permission in advance.
2. Beware of Posting Photographs of Strangers.
In many places, you have to have permission from “recognizable people” in a photograph in order to post their images online (especially on an author website or in promotional material). When taking conference photos, try to crop out strangers (either at the time or after the fact, using photo editing software), unless you have permission to post their images.
(Note: if the strangers’ images are blurry, and not recognizable, you’re ok. Most photo programs allow you to blur a face – and if the face is small enough, it isn’t obvious that you did.)
Some conferences post signs and warnings about photography during the event, stating that attendees grant permission for their photos to be taken and used in connection with the conference. However, while these warnings protect the conference organizers, they may not protect private individuals (i.e., attendees like you and me) against liability for use of someone else’s image.
Even when taking photos with your friends, make sure they understand you’re planning to post the photographs online. (And it’s nice to ask ahead of time if the photo isn’t flattering). Some friends may expect this—but others may not—so be aware.
3. It’s Always Polite to Link.
When posting online about conferences, workshops, and other events, the organizers or presenters appreciate when you link to their websites (or social media tags). Not only does this let the presenter (and event organizers) know you liked the event, but it encourages other people to attend and support the presenters and workshops too.
Obviously, this isn’t a complete or exhaustive list of the potential legal issues surrounding conferences and blogging. That said, it’s important to treat our fellow writers, presenters, and conference organizers—and their work—with respect and appreciation.
Have you had people plagiarize you, or even just share something online you weren't prepared for? How did you handle it? What other questions do you have for Susan?
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Susan Spann is a California transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business, and is also the author of the Hiro Hattori (Shinobi) mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo. Her fourth novel, THE NINJA’S DAUGHTER, released from Seventh Street Books in August 2016. Susan was the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2015 Writer of the Year, and when not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.
Find her online at http://www.SusanSpann.com, on Twitter (@SusanSpann), and on Facebook (/SusanSpannBooks).
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