Yesterday a tweet from @josiefraser alerted me to the fact that “There’s a giant @briankelly on the screen!“. Josie went on to inform me (and her other followers) that my image was being used by “Kirsty McGill on remote audiences #transliteracy“. A few minutes later Josie tweeted@briankelly now with added @briankelly #transliteracy“. There it was, amongst a set of Josie’s photographs taken at yesterday’s Transliteracy Conference held in Leicester, a photograph of me taken at last year’s IWMW 2009 conference together with a photograph of the photograph being displayed during a talk by Kirsty McGill at the conference. Very meta!

After viewing the photo I wonderedwhat was the learning point for use of that image?” and went on to speculate that perhaps at a transliteracy conference such an image might be used to raise issues such as privacy and permissions. I asked “how many rights-holders need to sign waiver for public use of this photo 🙂” – with the smiley face in the tweet indicating that I didn’t have a problem with such reuse of the photograph.

The photograph was used in a talk given by Kirsty McGill – and Kirsty herself took the photograph at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event last summer in her role as the official event blogger. The photograph was used in a blog post which summarised the various activities which took place at the workshop dinner – which included a caricaturist who, on hearing that one of my interests was rapper sword dancing, added a sword in his drawing of me.

Kirsty used the photograph in her talk on “Remote Audiences” in which she “provide[d] a brief introduction to creating a complete online experience of a conference for a remote audience by creating tools and providing content so they can actively engage and interact with the live event“. It was good to see how the amplification of IWMW 2009 was used in Kirsty’s talk.  As Kirsty’s abstract went on to describe “integrating [use of various technologies and resources] with a live event raises a number of challenges related to transliteracy: the remote audience may wish to access the event content from a variety of different platforms; representing the event appropriately within the literacies of each platform may require some adaptation of the content; and members of the remote audience may have different levels of ability to navigate and use the resources to full effect“.

In addition to the various technologies (e.g. Slideshare, the Twitter back channel, the video stream, etc.) there are also various softer issues to be considered.  For example there were several discussions on this blog (and elsewhere) last year related to archiving and citing tweets published at events.  In addition there is the issue regarding taking photographs (or videos or audio recordings) at such events and subsequent publication of such photographs.

A typical response  to the potential concerns regarding privacy which may be raised would be to require that permission is obtained before reusing such photographs. However my view is that this is likely to be too time-consuming to do. Going back to my original question as to the various rights-holders associated with the photograph shown above, we might identify myself (the main person in the photo), David Harrison (also easily identified in the photograph – but who, unlike me, was probably not aware that the photograph was being taken), the photographer (Kirsty, herself, I believe), UKOLN, who commissioned Kirsty to take photos on our behalf, the people in the background and the caricaturist who drew thew picture. In addition the photograph included above is a photograph of the photograph taken at IWMW 2009 – the (former) photograph was taken by Josie Fraser, and it includes Kirsty McGill. There could also be additional rights associated with the venue the two photos were taken in.

In this particular example the main stakeholders (myself, Kirsty, Josie and David) know each and are unlikely to be unduly concerned about reuse of such photographs and the two events (IWMW 2009 and the Transliteracy Conference) are both supportive of use of such technologies to enhance the events and support community-building.  But what may be appropriate for these events is not necessarily the case more widely.

For me I feel there is a need to take a risk management approach, which will assess the likelihood of concerns being raised and seek to take measures to minimise such risks (for example we provided a ‘quiet area’ in the main auditorium at the IWMW 2009 event for those who did not wish to be photographed or distracted by participants using their laptops during the talks).

Such a risk management approach was described in a paper entitled “A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” which I presented before Christmas at the Cultural Heritage Online 2009 Conference. In the paper, which was co-authored by Charles Oppenheim, we described a risk assessment formula for legal infringements. As an aid to identifying the risk of copyright infringement  the following formula was proposed:

R = A x B x C xD

where R is the financial risk; A is the chances that what has been done is infringement; B is the chances that the copyright owner becomes aware of such infringement; C is the chances that having become aware, the owner sues and D is the financial cost (damages, legal fees, opportunity costs in defending the action, plus loss of reputation) for such a legal action. Each one of these other than D ranges from 0 (no risk at all) to 1 (100% certain). D is potentially a high number. It is not easy to calculate the cost of loss of reputation.

This example was provided  for gaining an understanding of the financial risks of copyright infringement. But the risks aren’t just financial. In the example provided in this post we might modify the formula so that:

R is the general risk; A is the chances that what has been done is infringement; B is the chances that the rights holder becomes aware of such infringement; C is the chances that having become aware, the owner takes some action and D is the social cost (e.g. loss of reputation).

Although such an approach is subject to misuse by, say, the paparazzi, it may be a useful mechanism for those who wish to reuse images whilst avoiding upsetting others.