[Linux-aus] Photos at conferences

Russell Stuart russell-linuxaus at stuart.id.au
Tue Jan 21 11:18:20 EST 2014

On Tue, 2014-01-21 at 08:28 +1300, Simon Lyall wrote:
> My question is which of the photos above would get me in trouble if the 
> person had a "silver" lanyard? I'd like the think just the first.

Unfortunately that approach doesn't work.  Much as we like people to be
"reasonable" there is a small majority that won't be, and that applies
to both sides of the fence.

So on one side, we have photographers that persist in taking close up
photographs despite polite requests from the subject to stop.  On the
other side, I have personally be subject to a parent demanding I not
take pictures from the sideline of my child playing a team sport because
their child might be included in the photograph.  There is always
someone willing to play lawyer and twist whatever definition you come up
with to suit their view of what the world should be.

While "just the first" seems reasonable when you see that picture,
attempting to define it with words is damned near impossible.  It's like
pornography, which has reduced some of our best judges to saying "I know
it when I see it".

Unfortunately, this interacts badly with another truth: laws aren't
free.  Everyone has to know them, but no one reads terms and conditions
or codes of conduct.  So if you want an entire conference to do
something completely new like recognise lanyard colours, you are going
to have to explain it to everyone - maybe at the rego desk or maybe
during the plenary session.  And despite doing that, some twit will
break them - or worse push the boundaries.  So then the organisers have
to step in, adjudicate, and possible impose sanctions.  Take it from
someone who has organised a conference: the thought of having to mediate
a fight about the rules scared all of us.  With good reason as it turned
out.  So the reality is every new rule adds to the organisers work load,
and more than just a handful becomes overwhelming.  [0]

In this case I happen to think that ensuring that people who don't want
to be photographed aren't is the right thing to do.  It sits very well
with our "be nice and be considerate of others" mantra, the approach of
defining when photography is and isn't acceptable just isn't workable.
Any such rule will be too long, too complex, have too many boundaries to
push and besides, no one will read it.

On the other hand the rule we have now works.  That rule is "if someone
asks you to stop photographing them, stop immediately".  I add to that
"if someone asks you to delete a photograph you have just taken of them,
do so and show them you have done it."  There is little room for
alternate interpretations, and it can be expressed in few words.

[0]  That is why I typically advocate just leaving things alone and just
     saying "the rules of the conference are the laws of the land". 
     Every Australian has a pretty good feel for what those laws are. 
     In the case of photographs on public property the law is you can
     not take photographs where a person has a reasonable expectation of

More information about the linux-aus mailing list