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New Liability Issue: Cell Phone Video

One of the hottest topics in the speaking and hospitality industry is the video streaming in real time of a speaker’s presentation from smartphones. The speaker who creates the content is the owner of the presentation and power point which is known as intellectual property.

Generally, you will not want attendees to video your presenters. Often, the sponsoring organization will seek permission to make an official video that the organization may share online and may even restrict access to it as a “members only” benefit. However, there has been litigation involving organizations that did not receive written permission prior to the presentation. Be responsible and get permission to record in writing.

Even if you have written approval to video/record the speaker’s presentation, you are not out of the woods yet. Planners must be concerned with attendees videotaping the speech during the presentation and placing it on various social media. It is not acceptable or legal for attendees to randomly video stream a speaker’s presentation. Were you aware that you and your organization could be held liable for this? Most speakers will go where the money is located and this is towards the organization who did not secure written permission.

The biggest challenge in such situations are apps to be used on smartphones designed to make it easy for attendees to video stream the speaker’s presentation without any consideration of liability. These apps allow anyone to place the presentations on social media diluting the speaker’s brands and the uniqueness of their content. This infringes upon the intellectual property of the speaker. You or your organization could become a target in a lawsuit by the speaker if you allow attendees free rein with such cell phone apps.

A friend of mine attended a VIP reception for “Dancing with the Stars,” and she had to check her phone and purse so photos could not be taken. The talent agency was protecting the brand and this was one of the ways they controlled photographs. This is no different from attending a conference and video streaming a speaker’s presentation using your smartphone without permission. Speakers have to protect their brands, too, so beware of your liability if you do not have written permission.

Planners need to make “reasonable efforts” to inform every attendee of your policies about recordings. One of the ways you can do this is to have:
a written statement and/announcement such as “there will be no videotaping or recording from attendees smartphones and all smartphones must be turned off during the presentation” . It is critical to have this information printed in the program, agenda, website and an announcement made prior to the presentation that all smart phones be turned off. This will curtail any liability on your part. However, there have been litigations with organizations who did not receive written permission prior to the presentation.

I have surveyed many of my bureau colleagues about this issue. Planners will notice a more in-depth verbiage in their speaker bureau’s contracts because they, too, can be held liable as a third party. We must work together so everyone wins—-the meeting professional, the organization and the speaker. If you use a strategic plan of posting and enforcing your live streaming policies, a lawsuit will have a more difficult time succeeding.

Betty Garrett has spent more than three decades in the training, travel and hospitality industries. Her company, Garrett Speakers International, is based in Irving, Texas. Reach Garrett at Check out our website