Troops, let’s talk seriously for a moment.
I feel the need to comment on our responsibilities as members of the RArmy, and the gift of virtual access that we have been given by the “Urban and the Shed Crew” producers.
I am privileged to be the admin of a FB page that has the most wonderful, generous, remarkable people as members that I have ever encountered. While we may tease each other (and RA), usually the person we laugh at the most is ourselves. And there is a lot of laughter and fun on our page. No discourtesy, much less viciousness. Everyone seems to enjoy everyone else’s comments, point of view and, of course, RA. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we all indulge in a little of Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s “If you can’t say something nice, come sit next to me” attitude. But even then, the comments are based on humor, not spite. All in all, I can’t imagine any of the RA US members being unkind or disrespectful to each other, much less a stranger.
Yet some of the RArmy are being unkind to a stranger – in the form of the “Urban and the Shed Crew” project – that is just making our acquaintance. We’re see far too many RArmy members being disrespectful to an entire production. I find this amazing and, frankly, appalling.
The people behind RA’s latest project are generously reaching out to us – fans of RA, fans of the book, fans of Bernie Hare and all the kids in the crew, fans of the other actors (yes, there are others in this film with followings) – every day. I use the word “generously” advisedly. I’m sure we remember the lack of similar communication from another recent RA film project. But with “Urban and the Shed Crew,” we see regular tweets, and – so far – daily updates of the the Facebook page, usually with a photo.
All of these posts, tweets, photos – all of the information we’re seeing about this project – are gifts, not rights. We didn’t earn this. We aren’t owed this. The people behind “Urban” could just as easily think of us as more trouble than we’re worth as a potential audience worth cultivating. Because in the end, no matter how they treat us, we’ll go see their film.
So before we make another insolent comment or insulting post, please, let’s think twice. Not to be prosaic, but please be nice. We’re representing RA as much as we are ourselves. And, to put it on a more pragmatic level, now the “Urban and the Shed Crew” producers are still choosing to include us in their project. Let’s not make them think twice.
Now, what is essentially an incident from Internet ancient history – i.e. yesterday:
Yesterday the RA Universe exploded with a snapshot from the “Urban” set of <correction> Fraser Kelly (Urban) and two older boys mugging for the camera; it was a cute photo. In the background – way, way back in the background – who could we spot? Waldo! That is to say: RA. Within minutes of being posted, it was all over Facebook and Tumblr. I’m not trying to sound or be sanctimonious – because I succumbed in the end – but I had a bad feeling about it. First, it featured a child; it is a movie about children, but still, child actors have specific rights. Second, it appeared to be someone’s personal Instagram page. In the end, I was also greedy for new content. Although I did ask the owner for permission to use it, I didn’t wait for the owner’s okay. I was impatient. After a couple of hours, I took the word of the original poster that it was public and then posted it.
Big mistake. What’s worse is that I knew it.
A fan site and blog have to have some boundaries and ethical standards. I have a journalism background and I try to run my sites using certain specific editorial integrity guidelines. But this time, I ignored not only my training, but also my instincts.
So, what are the lessons?
- We cannot just purloin photos for our pages/blogs without the owners’ permission, particularly if the appear to be or are on an individual’s personal FB, Twitter or Instagram account (as has been the case before with RA content, and was in this the latest case). And,
- Once the owner asks for the content to be removed, it must be removed immediately! No prevarications, no rationalizations. It has to come down. Further, if you are the fan site contacted, it is your responsibility to let others know of this request and urge them to comply.
RA is not the only private individual in the RA Universe. And if it’s one thing we can and should respect it’s privacy. In light of all RA gives us through his public appearances, or how generous a production may or may not be, he and his colleagues deserve our respect for their privacy!
What happened? The owner contacted me – I had left that information when I requested permission – told me that I did not have her permission, and asked that I take down. I did, and spread the word. The top admins immediately removed it. With others, there were some discussions about its public vs. private nature. In the end, I hope the RA Universe proves itself, and the photo disappears from every public site.
As for me? I won’t make that mistake again. Any photos or content that have any appearance of personal or private nature will require the owners’ explicit permission to post. That will mean that here, our FB page, Tumblr and Twitter accounts will not have content you may see elsewhere. I am not about to go through this kind of “photos used without the family/owner’s permission” situation again (especially when, in my heart and mind, I know better).
Personally, I hope this – and the previous situation – would be a lesson to all of us.