Monday, August 10, 2009

Is tweeting a conference lecture a copyright violation?

An interesting discussion has been going on the last couple of days over on the Association for Professional Genealogists list. Someone asked if tweeting a lecture was a violation of copyright.

As is common on the APG list, a great discussion ensued. As a lecturer who was "tweeted" by an audience member at the conference in question, and an audience member who "tweeted" another lecture, I have three ideas to share on the subject.

My lecture "Basic Research Practices in the age of New FamilySearch" was tweeted by Ancestry Insider and then posted to his blog. My tweets and those of Ancestry Insider concerning Mark Tucker's lecture were posted to my blog. (And I'm sure glad I asked AI if I could repost our tweets together--now *that* would have been copyright infringement :-)

Idea #1)
I believe it was Elizabeth Mills' comment on the APG list that mentioned that it is hard for a lecturer to respond sufficiently to a twitterer's comments in this fast paced world. There were some comments that I would have liked to have made about Ancestry Insider's review of my lecture. My concern is that I can not--in today's incredibly fast world--respond sufficiently. By the time I was even aware that AI had tweeted my lecture, the tweets had already come and gone in most people's readers. Those who have read his blog post about the lecture won't be returning to read the comments. In order to respond effectively, a lecturer would have to spend 24 hours a day tracking what had been said and be able to respond immediately. Likewise, different people read Ancestry Insider's work than read mine. So most likely, those people will not see my response here. And many of them would not know if I commented on twitter even if my response had been immediate because they may follow Ancestry Insider but not me.
I suppose I have more opportunity to respond than I do if a newspaper reporter published their take on my lecture. But what if the issue I wanted to comment on had been a major one?

Idea #2)
AI says in his tweets that the wifi went out in the conference center during the talk and he missed tweeting a good portion of the end of the talk. (It looks to me like he missed about the last 1/2 of the lecture.) In my humble opinion (take that for what it is worth), he missed tweeting some of the main points--A)Part way into the lecture, and especially at the end, I strongly asserted that the problems with sources that I was talking about in New FamilySearch were being addressed by the developers and that I believe the database will become a fantastic resource in the future. B)The whole point of the lecture was that we--the users--are responsible for how useful this database will become in how we deal with sources there. and C)I highly recommended using the certified software to keep track of your sources while we wait for sourcing issues to get better in New FamilySearch. I think those things came across in the lecture. I'm not so sure they did in the tweets. That's ok. I later talked with someone who had to leave after the first 20 minutes. He didn't get the main point either. But he wasn't broadcasting that to the world. And Ancestry Insider certainly wasn't treading on my Intellectual Property if he didn't get the main points. What he did was report his take on my lecture--not record what actually happened. And that would be true of another twitterer if they had missed those points, or misconstrued my points accidentally or intentionally.

I suppose I could get all worried or excited about what people think of me or my lecture based on those tweets. I might worry that future conference organizers may base an opinion about my lecturing skills on a twitter report. But couldn't they do that on word of mouth or a newspaper or blog report? I appreciate that AI liked my lecture. But I shouldn't be crushed if he didn't--I agree with the APG list that tweets should be seen as constructive criticism and used to produce a better lecture. Based on AI's tweets (and our conversations at the conference), there is a slide that slipped through my review process that I need to fix. He caught it and I appreciate that. Anyone who is going to be terribly worried about what everyone thinks should get out of the lecturing business all together and stay away from any kind of public life. People will always have opinions about what you do or say. Those opinions can be expressed alot of different ways, and twitter is just one of them.

Idea #3)
By no means do I feel like my tweets of Mark Tucker's lecture, or even my tweets and Ancestry Insider's together, would violate Mark's intellectual property. If/when he ever gives that lecture again, I would highly recommend that you go. It was a fantastic lecture. I didn't even begin to scratch the surface of his good examples, and great stories, and the readers on twitter certainly missed his fantastic visuals and engaging personality. In tweeting the lecture, I think Ancestry Insider and I were simply trying to spread the wealth--reporting on the fantastic opportunity of being in a good class. But really, you should try it yourself. And as you can see above, I don't feel like the tweets of my class began to scratch the surface of my class either. It was simply an audience member's review of my class. You really should come the next time I give it.

Overall, I'm flattered to have been tweeted by such an illustrious blogger as Ancestry Insider. It gives me a broader reach for a topic I care about. I think that only a person who wasn't there would feel like a tweeted lecture was copyright infringement. If you were there, you would know how much more comprehensive the lectures were. I think tweeters are just trying to share the experience they are having. And if that eventually entices more people to come to these great genealogy conferences or learn more from these great speakers then so much the better.


Amy Coffin said...

Well said. That's a "rock star" reply indeed. Yay librarians.

M. Diane Rogers said...

Excellent reply with a good summary of current concerns and issues, I think, especially since you can speak from both the speaker and 'tweeter' point of views.

Becky Thompson said...

You made some excellent points, Janet and I really enjoyed reading your viewpoint. Thanks so much!

Craig Manson said...


This was a good, common-sense approach to the matter!

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

As a newbie speaker, I don't think I mind the Twitter angle because:

1. As they say, any publicity is good publicity.

2. As you say, someone might pick up on an aspect of the lecture that needs to be improved.

3. It constitutes more of a review than anything else.

4. If anyone can plagiarize me in 140 characters, either I'm doing something wrong, or they're very good at what they're doing!