For many people, filming or recording a talk has become the simple way to keep notes, rather than do that laborious and oh-so-hard exercise of lifting up a pen. But it is not all right, and I will tell you why.
Last night I gave a talk as part of Portsmouth’s Bookfest 2017 with crime fiction author and doctor of criminology, Diana Bretherick. The hour long talk had been devised between us to look at two fascinating characters from the Victorian era, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Cesare Lombroso – both scientists, and both of them devout Spiritualists.
The evening started well enough, although I did notice one guy, who had arrived early, and who had been sitting and holding his mobile phone at that perpendicular angle that implies he might be filming. Then, half way through the talk, I realised I felt uncomfortable, I looked across at him and found he had a handheld camera – not just a phone, pointed at me.
I was annoyed. I stopped the talk and addressed him directly:
“Excuse me, would you stop filming, please? You didn’t ask me if it was all right to film me, and I certainly haven’t given you my permission.”
Then I stood and waited.
He relented, and sat and sulked for the rest of the evening. That was fine by me, I immediately found that I was talking freely again.
Was this just me being a bit picky and self-conscious? Well, yes and no.
The fact is that the talk Diana and I were giving was the first run-through. It’s one that we intend to give again in sharpened form. We were doing it for free as part of Bookfest, and I certainly didn’t want our first presentation to be recorded and potentially made available online.
More importantly, that talk was born from hundreds of hours of research on both my and Diana’s part. The experience of finding out about these two fascinating people, of my building a knowledge of local literature (Conan Doyle invented Sherlock Holmes while living in Portsmouth, and also got into Spiritualism while living here) and Diana studying crime and writing about Lombroso were what led to that talk. That has value. Although Diana and I were giving the talk for free that night, I had no idea where that recording might end up. That work is my work, and I certainly have no intention of allowing it out there, with my name attached to it when it is an early incarnation of the talk we will finally give to other venues.
It was rude, it was off-putting, and frankly, cheeky for someone to turn up and simply try to record it without asking.
Writers and public speakers – be aware of this. Your hard work is your property and potentially your livelihood.
I wanted to ask this gentleman afterwards why he thought it was okay to record this talk and what he thought he was going to do with it. But at the end, he left quickly.
We are in an age in which it is very easy to record everything, and so, writers and speakers, I have learned a lesson and in future will be sure to announce that bootlegging is not allowed, and bootleggers will be asked to leave.
And oh, my goodness! Bootleggers?!? Do we all have to factor in considerations that used to be the reserve of rock bands, now, in our multimedia age?!?!