Monday, September 27, 2010
Post written by Ann Michel and Phil Wilde, principals, Insights International, Ithaca/New York City
In 1988, we made a film about kids growing up poor in rural New York State. This period was before the internet and perhaps many of our readers were born.
The kids who were willing to be in the film, with the parents of those kids agreeing, did so out of a sense of wanting to share their stories with us as filmmakers they trusted. We explained to them that this film would be shown to social workers and people in the business of helping kids throughout NY State.
The film was used extensively as a way to introduce professionals to the world as these kids saw it, so these professionals could better serve them.
Only kids are seen and heard in the film – the presence of the adults is felt but not shown. We used only the first names of the kids, and did not identify the places they lived. When the kids and their families gave us permission and access to their lives, we all had a sense of the extent to which this film would be seen and used.
Now the question arises, should we upload this film online?
We all know what happens the moment something is posted. It can be watched and used (if it is good) by people worldwide. It can be sliced into bits, re-mixed and re-used. It can be quoted and misquoted. We will have no idea about where and how it will be watched and used.
Is this online environment fair?
Is this reuse a violation of the privacy of the participants?
At the time the people in the film agreed to participate, this sort of thing was not technically possible. Now it is.
What are the ethics of uploading documentary films shot when the internet did not exist?