SUMMARY: Video cameras are great. You’re at a church event. Everybody is working together, having a great time. Wouldn’t it be great to capture a video clip and post it on YouTube?
Before you post video and photographs from your church’s events online, use these best practices.
1. Always have written permission from a parent/guardian before posting a recognizable image of a child (under 13) online. A blanket media release may be signed during a back-to-school event every fall or every year in January. Keep the signed copy in the church office. Don’t forget to provide a copy for new attendees and visitors, especially if photos or video are a possibility during an event.
2. Whenever using video or photographs of anyone—adults or children—to promote the church or any product or service, seek written permission from the adult, or the parent/guardian in the case of a child. Let the person know they are being videotaped or photographed to promote the church on the Web, and don’t use their image if they object.
“Any videos that you submit to YouTube may be redistributed through the Internet and other media channels, and may be viewed by other YouTube users or the general public.”
Once the video or the photograph appears online, it is public. The link on a website may be removed, or the photo or video may be removed from a server, but that does not ensure that a copy does not reside somewhere. If someone has an objection to being seen online with the identifying information of the church, do not use the footage or the photos of that person.
3. Post only videos and photos without individual identifying information on church websites. If you must identify people individually, use first name or first name and initial only. Even on Facebook, where we may think that only the friends we have chosen will see photos and videos, tagged photos and other entries can be downloaded and shared from friend to friend to friend. Be sure to tell people in the photograph that the images may be posted and tagged on Facebook before adding the image to the church’s page. Also, check your video clips and photos for other types of identifying information. Do documents on a desk contain personal information? Frame the shot to exclude those items, leaving no opportunity for anyone to read the information.
4. If you already have the video clip or the photo, backtrack to get the permissions you need BEFORE you post it online. Work with church staff and volunteers to identify for your records who the people are and how to get in touch with them. Then ask for permission to post their image online, with written permission for children. If you do not have permission from everyone, do not post the photo. This is not a case where it is better to ask forgiveness than permission, especially in light of safety concerns about children.
5. If the video or photo you are planning to post was not filmed or taken by you, make sure you have the permission of the owner of the video or photo before posting it. Also, be careful about reposting videos and photos you find on the Web—make sure you’ve identified the owner of the video or photo and have the owner’s permission before reposting.
6. Work with your church’s communications committee to create a policy specific to your church and tell your congregation what the policy is. Be sure your volunteer photographers are aware of the church policies. Parents will feel safer. Concerned adults will know how their images are protected. We recommend that you seek legal advice when creating your policies.
It is wonderful to promote the great things your church is doing. However, it’s important to be safe and respectful of the members of the congregation and visitors. Following these guidelines will get you closer to making these things possible.