The idea of videotaping anyone you want, anywhere you want, and then publishing the results on your vlog may seem appealing. But in most cases you need permission from the people you tape in order to publish your footage on the Internet. You also need permission to use any copyrighted material in your vlog, including any of the commercial CDs and DVDs in your collection, and things you see on TV. So in this section we'll give you some broad guidelines for vlogging within legal and ethical bounds.
Keep in mind that we are not attorneys. What follows is general information about legal issues, not legal advice. Follow these guidelines at your own risk, and please consult an attorney about any questions or concerns you have about legal rights and responsibilities related to videoblogging.
Taping in Public
Sometimes people get really uncomfortable when they're being videotaped. If you've ever flashed a camcorder around a family event, it's more than likely that at least one person has tried to hide from the camera lens and said, "Please, don't tape me." Imagine how invasive it must feel to those folks to see a stranger taping them without permission. For both ethical and legal reasons, we recommend three rules for happy vlogging:
The same rules apply even if you are shooting in a public place, such as a park, airport, or subway station. Even though people who are sitting on a park bench or walking down the street are fully aware that they're in public, it's rude to stick your video camera in someone's face unless you've asked permission first. What if you're shooting a crowd scene? Here's a good rule of thumb: If an individual you want to videotape will be recognizable in any footage you shoot for your vlog, then you need that person's permission to proceed.
Even after you get permission to videotape, it's a good idea to be obvious about the fact that you are shooting video so no one thinks you're trying to shoot without permission. If you're shooting on private property, such as at a mall or in a grocery store, don't be surprised if you're asked to stop. Many property owners prohibit videotaping on their premises.
Getting Permission to Shoot
An easy way to get an authorized permission is to simply ask subjects before you begin shooting if it's okay to videotape them for your videoblog. If they say yes, tell them you would like to record their consent. Point your camera at the subject, begin recording, then repeat the question: "Is it okay if I videotape our conversation in this location for use in my videoblog on my Web site?"
If your subject is not a friend or family member, ask them to say and spell out their full name and contact information on the tape. We like to ask for that info so we can send our subjects a link to the video masterpieces they've participated in. People are usually happy to share the info. If they're not, you can reassure worrywarts that their contact information will stay confidential and will be not be included in the final video on your Web site. That means, of course, that you must keep your promise and never, ever, release their contact info on your vlog or anywhere else without their permission.
Another way of getting approval is by having your subject sign a permission form, also called a release form, such as the one pictured in Figure 2.11.
Figure 2.11. You need a release to show people's liknesses in your vlog.
Whether your permission forms are on paper or on video, make sure you keep all of them on file and easy to locate. If a neighbor decides he looks awful instead of adorable on your vlog, for example, he may forget that he ever agreed to be videotaped. Permission forms are a type of protection, so don't lose them.