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Forget About Being Taped…

Are You Being YouTubed? Inside Higher Ed reports on the growing phenomenon. I enjoyed the discussion on Mike’s related post, but I wonder if those who defend students’ right to tape lectures would include this type of recording?

IP issues aside, I have trouble with it because of the potential decontextualization that can result from this sort of unauthorized surveillance. As Helen Nissenbaum suggests in Privacy as Contextual Integrity, a classroom lecture is meant to be watched as a whole–not to be broken down into, say, its most embarrassing (or even enlightening) parts.

Would I give the same right to performers? Say, to a musician who doesn’t want her songs parodied and puts a shrinkwrap license on CD’s to prohibit buyers from doing so? I think one can draw a principled line between performances and recordings. The performance should remain a space of improvisation and spontaneity, and the privacy protections needed to keep it that way ought to be respected. But the authorized recording is presented to the world as a finished product, and I’d approach shrinkwrap restrictions on it with my usual skepticism about the desirability of wholly-privately-crafted IP rules.