Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TEDx - Not Playing Fair?

TED - the group behind the Technology, Entertainment, Design events, is massive in scope, and contribution to the collective genius and information sharing in a way that is here-to-fore unheard of.

To grow the TED initiative, a one-time funding effort apparently evolved to create TEDx events in communities around the country. The website suggests "TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level."

Even you can host a TEDx event, just check out the guidelines here. All of the messaging in the "how to host" section is all about volunteerism. As for speakers, TED advises "TED does not help TEDx partners identify and secure speakers. TED does not pay speakers and neither should you." Hmmm, okay. I can say I've given my fair share of free speaking engagements. There's a hint of brand-building, where also on the TEDx page, is says "As a TEDx licensee, you are vested with helping to grow the TEDx brand." So, we are talking business here, right? For larger events (defined as 50+), sponsorships could occur. In the responsibilities section, it suggests "Soliciting sponsorship (if needed): If you're holding a larger event, you may require financial support from sponsors."

Ahh, so there could be money involved, somewhere, somehow?
(Continued after the Jump)

Further, TEDx events require you to upload photos to Flickr tagged "TEDx." However, according to the site here:
"Before you upload anything, you must confirm that all the images, music and video clips used in your speakers' presentations are cleared for re-distribution on YouTube and Getting the initial clearance is the responsibility of the speakers; collecting documentation of the licenses (and providing it to TED hf necessary) is the responsibility of the host."
Ahh, yes, once again, the value of intellectual property and rights clearances arises. Nice of them to respect that.

As of right now, there are over 7,000 photos tagged on Flickr with TEDx, as seen here. So it is with these insights now shared, that I wanted to bring up that a colleague and friend of mine tweeted out a month or so ago that TEDx was coming to Baltimore to host a TEDxMidAtlantic event, and they were looking for volunteers. I challenged the notion of shooting the job for free, and my friends response? "The whole event is being done on a volunteer basis. They're not even charging admission." When I asked of the venue "Is the lighting tech or AV tech at MICA working for free? Is the security guard there working for free? Is the electric company donating the electricity to light/cool the building?" I was met with the response "Maybe people should just never volunteer for anything, ever again." Well, I have it on good authority that one group of people got paid - the three videographers working the gig.

Set aside the donation of the space by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), the people organizing the event (a salaried employee of the Baltimore Sun by the way), and even the speakers, who all donated their time. Why is it that the videographers got paid a fair rate, and the still photographers had to do it for free? That just doesn't seem fair. Photographer Christiana Aretta uploaded 479 photographs from this event, engineering student Jeff Quinton uploaded 34, and student Seth Nenstiel uploaded 29. It looks, from my review of these three top image providers, that Aretta covered the event like an assignment, and surely, she should have been paid if her motion-picture-producing counterparts were paid. Why wasn't she?

In the end, I didn't see the benefits of providing to an organization intellectual property that would be disseminated far and wide long after the speakers left the stage, yet your images are part of the ongoing benefit enured to TED that requires that your images fulfills the obligation of the host who is "...vested with helping to grow the TEDx brand." It's now just salt in the wound that video apparently got paid, stills apparently did not. Aretta looked like she did a professional job, as did the video team, with 19 videos, as seen on YouTube here. I call shenanigans on the payment front.

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