Theme Park Insider

On Second Thought, Maybe You'd Better Not 'Show Your Disney Side'

September 24, 2014, 2:43 PM · Observers today noticed some changes to the Park Rules that Walt Disney World and Disneyland have posted online. One apparent change notes that Disney considers the use of e-cigarettes to be the same as smoking traditional cigarettes, and restricts their use to designated smoking areas in the theme parks. It's rule (e) under "General Rules" on the page linked above.

But many of us who publish websites that cover the Disney theme parks are noticing rule (f) under "Prohibited Activities" — "Photography, videotaping, or recording of any kind except for personal use."

This is a change from past rules, which barred commercial photography without permission from the company. Now anything that is not "personal use" is prohibited. Which, plain language suggests would include posting photos on any social media platform. After all "social" is not "personal." If you're putting a photo online, where millions of people might have access to it, that's not "personal use."

So much for "Show Your #DisneySide." Now, if you post a photo that you've taken inside a Disney theme park to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or even Theme Park Insider, you have violated Disney's park rules. Disney doesn't say on its rules page what the sanction for violating its rules might be, but let's just say I am not holding my breath waiting for Disney to cancel the tickets of people who post their Disney photos to Facebook.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Hey, look, I'm violating the park rules! No, not the guys with their hands up. Me, with the camera!

In which case, why have a rule if you know you won't enforce it? Why have a rule that your own publicity department has been openly encouraging your guests to violate? (Just a reminder that there's still time to vote in Disney's contest for the best photos taken by guests inside Disneyland!)

For what it's worth, Universal Orlando's posted Policies and Restrictions say nothing about photography. Nor does SeaWorld Orlando's policies page. (Tickets and signs at the park entrance might include restrictions, but I am not in Orlando and can't check that today. Anyone on site with a report?)

It's understandable that theme parks would not want to allow commercial film and photo crews to work in their parks without permission. When I was part of a commercial shoot for Google at Knott's Berry Farm last year, Google had to secure permission from the park to bring in its film crew. When I cover press events at various parks, I have to agree to abide by parks' restrictions on where I can and cannot shoot and film. (Here's an example: I've seen some great close-up views of the construction on Universal Studios Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is being built within a few yards of the park's employee entrance. But I couldn't take photos from there because I have agreed with Universal, and at every park I've ever covered, not to take photos when I am in backstage areas.)

But banning all photography by everyone that is not for "personal" use? In a social media era, that's just lazy legalese. It ain't gonna happen. Disney's not going to stop encouraging people to use social media to build buzz for its theme parks, nor should it.

For more than a decade, we've campaigned here at Theme Park Insider to promote theme park safety. We've encouraged people to take responsibility to keep themselves and their families safe while visiting parks. As part of that campaign, we've encouraged visitors to abide by all posted park rules.

We would like to be able to continue to do that. But theme parks make it hard for us to encourage people to follow their rules when those parks publish "rules" that the parks themselves openly encourage their visitors to break.

Replies (25)

September 24, 2014 at 2:59 PM · I hope they update this rule. That's pretty lazy indeed to have a rule that forces us to keep the photos to ourselves and never post anything on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Does Disney not want us to share the magic with our friends? I mean #Disneyside is free advertising for them.

Whoever wrote that rule needs to understand why we share photos of our trips to Disney Parks on the internet.

I wouldn't be surprised if some of my Instagram photos will be taken down if they start enforcing this crappy rule.

September 24, 2014 at 3:02 PM · As corporations' bureaucracies grow, it becomes common for the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. These types of policies make little common sense and even less business sense.
September 24, 2014 at 3:06 PM · A Facebook profile is personal use. The rule would only apply to pages that are making commercial gain off Disney, such as Theme Park Insider's page, which attracts readers because of Disney and others theme park players and then makes money by selling ads.
September 24, 2014 at 3:18 PM · Not if you post to friends or to the public on FB. That's not "personal" use. It would be personal only if you used Facebook as a cloud drive to store stuff you made available only to yourself.

Same goes with any other social media service.

September 24, 2014 at 3:24 PM · In media law, the opposite of "personal" is "commercial" -- not "public." The litmus test isn't how many people see it, but rather whether you are profiting financially from it.
September 24, 2014 at 3:31 PM · This makes absolutely no sense. Most people I know base their trip plans on what their friends and other websites such as TPI post pictures of. Most people like hearing an actual personal experience followed by pictures of something new or an experience they haven't tried. I forsee a lot of rebels posting pics and daring Disney to catch them in the act.
September 24, 2014 at 3:46 PM · At first...i thought you were right...lazy legalese....that they MEANT commercial but used personal instead...and then I thought about it...they will never enforce this rule against Mr and Mrs Smith and their family on vacation...where they MIGHT want to enforce it -- is in case of an accident or other negative public event....they want to be able to control that kind of story, not let it explode on Youtube or FB....Just my thoughts....but I see them being able to prevent guests from recording a child getting trapped between two boats on Pirates, or a monorail crashing into another or a similar accident. Which is how they would enforce the rule...most likely with a polite or stern warning not to record and then ejection. Also...in event of injury to a guest or medical emergency they want to ensure THEY are not made liable for damages because a guest violated the potential privacy of another guest taken ill or in the background. While that recording could be used as evidence...the company will want as few recording as possible because a recording taken out of context can be worth millions of dollars. Just my thoughts....For the most part I think it is a harmless rule not intended for the everyday guest or sites that promote the parks through in-depth coverage. :)
September 24, 2014 at 3:58 PM · That's a CYA rule, kind of like some of those driving laws that the police don't enforce unless they want to or need for another reason. Probably also some sort of legal premise there as well. It gives them the control they want and the choice to exercise it if they would ever feel the need to.

BTW, I consider e-cigs to be far less offensive than regular ones. I can handle the smell of flavored steam. Let em live.

September 24, 2014 at 4:27 PM · I have just three little words: Escape From Tomorrow. If anyone else tried to create a movie inside a Disney park, they would now have the legalese to shut it down.
September 24, 2014 at 4:39 PM · This is obviously in response to that "Escape From Tomorrow" movie - the one where the makers secretively filmed an entire fiction movie on Disney property, edited it together and showed it at film festivals.
I've never seen it, but I understand it doesn't necessarily paint Disney Co. in the most positive light.
Disney never gave any real response to the movie, and seemed to quietly ignore it, until it went away on its own (which it did...ask anybody in the general population if they've heard of it, and they'll say "no". However, if there had been some ugly lawsuit, it would have been free advertising for the movie).
Now Disney has waited for it to go away and put a new rule out - not for Facebook photo posters, but giving them the right to kick people out of their parks if they're trying to do something similar, or sue them for violating their ticket agreements.
All without ever mentioning the movie. And in two weeks, nobody will remember the rule change.
The mouse is a crafty rodent, don't ya'know.
September 24, 2014 at 5:42 PM · Selective enforcement can get tricky, because that can be used against a company if a sanctioned party decides to take the issue to court over something such as a discrimination claim.

Also, in the interests of disclosure, I have gotten permission from Disney to use here on TPI and in our guidebooks photos that I have taken in the parks as well as ones have been submitted to the site from TPI readers in the parks. So the old "no commercial use without permission" standard wasn't an issue for us because we had that permission.

But the new policy makes no exception for such permission. The next media event should be interesting!

September 24, 2014 at 6:06 PM · When any content is posted to Facebook, it's being used commercially, as Facebook is an ad-supported commercial publication. If you post to YouTube, same thing, with the added possibility of the poster earning a share of revenue from ads shown on their posted videos. If personal is simply non-commercial, I'd argue that it is getting harder and harder to find any "personal" content online.
September 24, 2014 at 6:40 PM · Where does one find the official policy re photography on a theme park's website? I just looked at Six Flags Great Adventure's website and could find no guidelines. I have been operating on the assumption that posting photographs of rides and other attractions on any medium is OK and in fact I was given permission by the park to use a photograph of a ride op loading Zumanjaro for my review of this ride, published on TPI back in July.

However, I was told that I would need permission from the park to interview park guests about the ride on camera and there was no-one on a Sunday to give me permission. How does this different from posting photographs? OK, I understand that the park is private property but don't understand the prohibition about interviewing riders. I would have thought that if people raved about the ride in a video, this would be very much to the park's advantage. What am I missing?

September 24, 2014 at 9:59 PM · I've seen rules like this at other theme parks, though usually there is more to define "personal use." According to most similar policies, as long as you took the picture, you are the one using it, and you are not making money off it, you are not in violation of the policy. I have a feeling the rules are more in place so the park can prevent people from taking photos or making videos in the park and making a profit off it without the park receiving any compensation. Now, if you're in a restricted area or at a special event, the rules may be different, but no park would ever ban an everyday visitor from posting photos of their visit to Facebook...it's free advertising.
September 25, 2014 at 1:15 AM · I think you're being a little over-reactive here Robert.

I suspect most courts of law could easily distinguish between 'personal' and 'commercial'. If I post pictures to my Facebook page as a happy record of my time at the most magical place on earth that's 'personal' irrespective of how many adverts are being carried on the site around me. If I post the pictures to my online clothing store to show how the fantastic range of clothes I make are ideal for walking round the most magical place on earth that's 'commercial'.

And as for e-cigarettes I no more want people blowing vapour into my face than I do smoke - it's still anti-social. And as a hotelier myself I should also point out that e-cigarette vapour can activate the fire alarms just as effectively as real smoke, hence why we ban them inside the building.

September 25, 2014 at 3:28 AM · As already said, it is a way to avoid a new "Escape From Tomorrow". I don't think Disney is stupid enough to kill all the free advertising generated by the "Disney side" thing and the people sharing their vacations. It is quite common (here, I remember my law studies) to have some "excessive" rules that you don't want to really apply, unless you see a major problem coming. That gives you flexibility...
An example? Someone is filming a short video for a blog about theme parks? Disney can "let it go" (OK, this one was easy). But now, if someone is trying to do "Escape From Tomorrow - The Sequel", Disney can stop it right on the spot!
Also, let's keep in mind the guests experience. Imagine if tomorrow the parks are full of bloggers that want to be famous filming everywhere. Filming can be simple, but can be also annoying if the crew is using lightings, tripods, and so on or asking guests to avoid coming in front of the camera. This could be a nightmare. I agree this is a bad thing that Disney have to make such a rule, but if used wisely, this could also avoid some problems. We'll see.
September 25, 2014 at 5:57 AM · Oh and e-cigs and "vaping" are no better than people slathering on perfume/ cologne or playing loud music from their phone in line. That person may enjoy it, but when it's affecting other people's enjoyment of the parks, then that's when it's an issue. It's total disregard for others and their right to enjoy clean air, or obnoxious music even if it's Disney music. It's the same people who say "then don't listen to it" that are totally disrespectful and are selfish.

If you're going to smoke anything, do it in the privacy of your own home.

September 25, 2014 at 6:41 AM · I got shut down last month shooting pictures at Carowinds. I was trying to shoot a time lapse using a little tabletop tripod (the plan was to shoot a little as a proof of concept before asking the park for permission to use a real tripod). After getting grief from a security guy after being there for five hours, I abandoned the plan. Kind of a bummer, as the limited material I shot actually turned out really good looking.
September 25, 2014 at 8:20 AM · I am sure Disney considers any angle possible for personal photography, which should absolutely include posting your own photos on Facebook and Instagram, and posting videos on Youtube that includes Disney intellectual property and possibly earning income with sufficient views.

Disney is more likely to go after Facebook and Youtube than the individual unlike the cases where individuals are sued for using music that belong to the publising company. Disney is well positioned to take many people to court, but they haven't.

Is Disney inaction means an individual is flouting the rules? Not necessarily. It just means most people are not breaking the rules.

If you are breaking the rules, I am sure Disney will send a warning letter from their lawyers. I think Disney is more tactful in how it resolves its intellectual property concerns than other companies. That's why you don't see that unofficial Disney movie anywhere. It completely disappeared.

I don't like that many communities and companies discriminate against e-cigarettes when they are helpful to break the smoking habit. Perhaps they deserve a special spot where e-cigarettes can be used away from other smokers. It's sort of like a drinker tries to stop drinking alcohol by drinking non-alcoholic beverages (O'Douls for example), but told they can only do this at the bar. How long before they are tempted to drink again?

September 25, 2014 at 9:22 AM · I have to disagree with you, Robert. I don't think posting my photos on Facebook breaks any "personal use" agreement.

On a side note, is Disney now allowing adult guests to wear costumes outside of the Halloween Party? Check rule C under "Prohibited activities".

September 25, 2014 at 1:26 PM · My guess is that they're just trying to discourage people from posting ride videos on forums like YouTube. I doubt they care about your vacation pics being posted on social media sites. Why would they not want free publicity?

However, a complete ride video is something else because it's a spoiler.

September 25, 2014 at 9:31 PM · I think you are taking the rule enforcement a little too far. They want you to use the pictures for personal use, not commercial. That is the same for a majority of other parks and sporting events.
September 25, 2014 at 9:33 PM · After second reading of the comments, SFGA DOES have this rule as well!
September 28, 2014 at 2:56 AM · I also think you are slightly overreacting. I would say if you are placing a photo on your personal Facebook or Twitter that is personal use as you are sharing on a personal account so your friends can see the photo (same as showing a paper photo album in the old days).
Blogs are a little different but If you are writing a personal blog and use a photo you took at Disney to show what a great time you had eating at Cinderella's Royal Table that is still personal use. However if you are part of a team writing a blog with a large amount of advertising or which charges a subscription that is commercial use.
September 30, 2014 at 1:42 PM · Not really Sure why all of my previous Comments never posted.

So this will be the last try.

The reason for this rule has to do with copy write.

When you post a photo on Facebook you give up the copy right to it and Facebook owns the photo. It's hidden in the terms of service. Facebook uses your photos for marketing and advertising. Disney does not want Facebook using photos of the Park and making money. With this rule it makes those photos " illegal" photos and non of the Big social media company's can claim ownership of park photos.

Thats the short of it.

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