Saturday 5 May 2018

Photos and Films at Tango Events - how it affects all of us!

From May 25 on, the GDPR (general data protection rule) will come into direct effect in all EU countries. The law is meant to prevent the misuse of personal data - in particular by the big firms who make money by processing and/or selling data.

But the law will also affect every single person living or working in the EU and it will have a huge impact on the tango community - that has become very dependant on the exchange of digital data via e-mails, online forms, websites, youtube and social media. A lot of tools and commodities that we have been using or enjoying on a daily basis will have to be re-structured or even abandoned. And although the law certainly is of noble intent, a lot of its outcomes might be quite devastating.

The law is applied a differently in the EU countries, but in Germany, there is no extra regulation, so the GDPR regulations will have to be interpreted by model lawsuits. Depending on which country you live or work in, that might be the same or comparable because of a very strict interpretation in the country affected. Everyone will have to check whether and how exactly the regulation apply to him or her.

Because of this, my life as a tango teacher and organiser has again become more complex, costly and work-intensive. In the last few weeks, I have spent many hours and quite a few Euros to update five websites and several online forms as well as restructure my general way of data collection and processing. One of the sad outcomes is, that there won't be anymore comments on this blog. I have disabled all further comments in every single blog post - separately, because there is no option to do that for the entire blog in general. ARGH! All that work to in order to make the business GDPR compliant. Not being a lawyer or even interested in that kind of stuff made it even harder for me.

Ok. That does sound so bad and so far, the extra work and costs just affected us (and every other European organiser and teachers who takes his or her job seriously). Obviously it of no big interest to the consumers, the event- and class-participants. 

Unfortunately, affected tango organisers and teachers will have to - sooner or later - adapt their fees for classes or events in order to compensate for huge amount of extra work and costs. That’s already quite inconvenient, isn’t it?

But, money aside, there will be other (more immediate and sad) effects on our tango experience.

It concerns all tango photography as well as videos taken during events.

This is the law:

The GDPR says that every collection of data has to be agreed upon by the person whose data is collected. Digital photos and videos as well as their processing is considered as processing data after Article 2, Paragraph 1, GDPR.
Therefore every photographer, film-maker or event organiser will have to ask for permission after Article 6, Paragraph 1 GDPR before any photos or videos are taken. The object has the right to withhold this permission or to withdraw consent after Article 7, Paragraph 3 GDPR at any moment.

How is this different from the previous practise?

Although you had to ask for consent to take a photo before GDPR, there were quite a few exceptions that allowed tango photographers to take nice pictures and post them on facebook or exhibit them in another form: 
  • Declaring the photos/films as art,
  • Only asking the person in focus for permission. People not in the focus (e.g. seen from behind or taking a only a small space in the picture) could be declared as accessories and therefore did not have to consent.
  • Define the event as private and posting it only to those who have attended.
  • Defining the event as public.
  • ...
And let’s be honest: most people love tango photos or did not care so much, as long as the photographer did his/her job in a discreet manner and was willing to take down photos which one did not like after publishing them.

Now the law requires, that everyone who will recognisable in a picture (also if it is just by a haircut, tattoo or figure) has to consent before any film or photo is made at all forms of events - e.g. weddings. Also the form of storing and publishing of the material has to be informed about and agreed with. The photographers or organisers have to be prepared to produce this written permission upon request of the subject or of a regulatory authority. They will have to face potentially huge fines, if not complying to the law.

What does this practically mean?

It will be almost impossible to spontaneously take a nice photo or film the ronda or crowd. In any case, you will have to get permission before. That might create more or less difficulties. Check out some different cases:
  • As long as it is a very small crowd - like our Tangokombinat Minilonga with 30 people or so - all that might not be such a huge effort - just annoying, because everyone has to sign a paper form at the entrance of the milonga. This means that you actually have to have someone sitting at an entrance desk, not just a desk with a money-box. Why: because the filled-out form itself is an information about somebody - data that has to be protected from misuse. The cashier has to make sure that no-one else reads it. One person more to pay or compensate for or "bye-bye" dancing for the organiser!
  • At an encuentro or marathon, you can ask people to agree upon registration, but they can revoke their permission at any given moment. So it is already a lot more work beforehand. And then imagine, you’ve got 200 participants, 20 of them not agreeing and the photographer or film maker might not know everyone personally - in particular if he/she is not a dancer. He/she will have to check before every photo or film, if anyone within sight did not comply. Most likely with the help of a list and someone actually knowing all participants by name. This will be the organiser, who is already busy with lots of other things or who might want to dance as well. Sure, there is the possibility to give the non-compliant participants badges to wear, but checking for them in a crowd will also take time and honestly - who wants to wear a stupid badge? Or force someone to wear it? For me, that opens up quite another box of Pandora.
  • An open Milonga or a Tango Festival, where people show up spontaneously at the door is even more complicated. You will have to make them sign paper forms (see above). Just imagine how long a check-in might then take. And then let's hope that you can actually spot the non-compliants in the crowd.
  • A last example: taking a video of a demo or a class summary. Apart from the potentially huge effort of asking permission, the camera will be moving, so it even  harder to control who you are filming at any given moment. You can of course invite everyone who did not comply to move out of the camera angle. And then you just have to hope that no-one stays seated in a visible spot and complains or even sues later. Who will risk filming under such circumstances? Sure, in some countries making such clips just for personal usage might still be allowed - but how many of them end up on Youtube?

Imagine what all of this does to the artistic spontaneity or expression of a photographer or film-maker. It kills it. Plus the additional work! Apart from the preparation by getting people to consent, the complete raw-material has to be carefully checked before further processing and deleted in case it shows someone who was filmed by accident or someone who revoked consent after the event.
So from now on every photographer/film-maker/organiser will think about if having a few nice photos is still worth the effort. And every serious professional will have to increase prics. 

What is the outcome?

The best outcome: Having pictures or films made at tango events will become more expensive and these extra costs will be payed by the consumer's fees. 
The worst-case scenario: There won’t be any pictures or videos. Knowing the community and its mechanisms, I predict that many event organisers will just save on the expense or effort.
And would this not be incredibly sad? Don’t you all love the (moving) pictures of dancers in a nice embrace or of your favourite performers during their spectacular demo? And now think of what kind of damage this does to the artists or teachers who depend on videos or photos for promotion. 
No problem for Tango Escenario by the way, if it is exhibited on a stage without showing the audience.
All of this might have a huge impact of how tango is perceived from the outside or what kind of tango will be popular in the future. Tango as a world heritage, in particular the social tango we love could become much poorer and ultimately might face a decline because of this reduced exposure.
You think that I am exaggerating? Let’s hope so, but let’s not count on it.

How does this affect us?

By us, I mean Melina Sedó & Detlef Engel as well as the Tangokombinat-headquarter. Our UK section might not have these problems after the Brexit - maybe the one reason to looking forward to it. 
We love to have pictures taken during ours events. What would an encuentro be without the photos of happy people in lovely embraces to remember it by? We would like to preserve this!
Also there are a lot of people who enjoy watching videos of our demos - which have been crucial in our advertising for the last 17 years. We were amongst the first tango dancers to upload dance-videos onto the web - long before Youtube or Facebook! A lot of people invited us or came to our classes because of a video they had seen. Without the videos - we would not be were we are now.

What will we do?

1. We will ask every visitor of our events to allow us to take pictures or videos of him/her. We will do so upon registration or with the help of an extra form or with a paper form to sign upon entering a milonga. 
2. If there are too many (more than 10% of all visitors) not consenting, then there will simply not be any pictures or films of this event. The efforts and risks involved are just too high.
3. Because of the ambiguity of the law - we are not yet sure who will be liable, if a law is broken - we cannot officially authorise third parties to film or take photos. You will have to do so on your own risk.
4. We will ask for consent before videotaping any of our demos or class summaries - no matter who the organiser of the event is. 
5. In cases of filming outside of the EU or when filming in dark light settings, this might not always be necessary and we might additionally blur the film around the edges to make extra sure. Also some EU countries (e.g. Sweden) have taken extra measures to create own regulations that overrule the GDPR and might ease the situation. Therefore we might sometimes be able to film a demo without the written consent of the spectators at a local event. But what happens at a Festival in Sweden, with visitors from all over the EU? Do I need a written consent of a German or Greek dancer? Or do I need the consent in general because the laws of my home-country applies when posting a video on the internet via a german server? So many people give different answers. This is quite confusing.

I am not a lawyer and I seriously hope that some of the regulations might turn out to be interpreted more liberally as I now have to assume. But many of the questions have yet to be answered in courtrooms. This might take years and until then, a lot of lawsuits will cost a lot of money. We definitely won't take any risks.

I know that this was a really boring post, but one that I hope many tango organisers, teachers and dancers will read. You seriously have to form an opinion and take care of stuff ...

... before someone gets hurt! Or cries because of a huge fine.