Do theme parks want visitors to post photos and video online?
By Robert NilesTravel writer Christopher Elliott earlier today tweeted a link to a story that raised fears that theme parks might sue visitors who posted photos or videos of their trips online.
Published: January 19, 2010 at 1:19 PM
As it turns out, corporate lawyers for theme parks have every right to come down on you like a ton of bricks for posting videos of their client's lucrative creations, including banjo-playing bears or live versions of Beauty and the Beast. Indeed, you could theoretically get sued for posting a video of your daughter's first ride on Peter Pan's Flight and sharing it with everyone you know.
The author of the story tried to pin down spokespersons from Disney and other theme park chains on exactly when they would go after someone for posting park video online, but couldn't get an answer.
Here's why: Because there's no way a theme park is going to sue a paying customer for promoting its product.
Promoting Busch Gardens' roller coasters
Yeah, the fine print on ticket media says that you can't take pictures and video for commercial purposes. And parks' contracts with owners of various characters and movie franchises limit their ability to use images of those characters and scenes in promotional material. So, when asked in an official capacity, park spokespeople have to toe the corporate line about how they have the right to keep someone from posting certain material online.
But talk to these folks privately, and I have (with reps from every chain out there), and they all say the same thing: They absolutely love viral promotion from their guests. SeaWorld has built its websites around photos from its visitors. Many parks are now offering visitors the option of uploading coaster videos directly to YouTube.
This isn't to say that online video and photos don't concern park management. But the folks who run theme parks are more worried about what you are doing when you shoot video or photos than where you post them after you leave the park. When paparazzi have overrun Disneyland in the past, the park has issued blanket bans on guests bringing "professional" quality cameras into the park. (In practice, this means long lenses and tri- or monopods.) Sure, Disney loves the publicity of having photos from Disneyland in the tabs. But it doesn't like photographers harassing, blocking or endangering its other paying customers. That's the reason for the occasional crack-downs.
Nor do parks want photographers endangering themselves or others. That's led to the biggest dilemma for theme parks: How to respond to visitors' online POV [point of view] roller coaster videos. This is the one subject in this area that park reps don't like talking about even off the record. Every park I know of bans the use of recording equipment on high-speed rides, including roller coasters. But I've also yet to see any park send cease-and-desist letters to websites which host and encourage reader POV videos. (For the record, Theme Park Insider does not embed video taken in violation of parks' safety policies.)
Smart parks, such as Cedar Point and Holiday World, are feeding viewers' demand for POV video by creating their own YouTube channels with park-produced POV (filmed with cameras securely attached to coaster trains). You'll find those ride videos embedded on Theme Park Insider attraction listing pages for those parks.
Perhaps if someone got hurt by a visitor's camera on a roller coaster, that might inspire a crackdown against guest video. (Especially if the owner of the camera used the plethora of online POV as a defense - proof of parks' acceptance of the practice.) But that hasn't happened to date.
The only time a theme park is going to try to shut down a video is if it violates the park's copyright or safety rules and portrays the park in a negative light. Remember the video from the Xcelerator accident at Knott's last summer? That went away quickly.
But videos of Peter Pan or Small World in normal operation? Please. Why scare readers by even raising the possibility?
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