How to Legally Live Stream Your Event

Video live streaming of events is simple to set up, easy to use, entertaining to watch, and most importantly accessible by all. It’s also unedited, unplanned, and unprocessed content being broadcasted live. There’s lots of potential for using this new technology at events. However, with great power comes great legal implication.

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Popular providers are quickly gaining a large audience, but before jumping on board, it’s important to know how to protect yourself and event from unintentionally falling victim to privacy or copyright infringement. Just because it’s your event doesn’t give you the right to use the venue, copyrighted material, or individual’s likenesses to profit from.

In the following, we provide an overview of the legal risks that come with live streaming video at events, and how to protect yourself.


The Legality of Live Streaming Your Event

Live streaming events is another instance of technology far surpassing legal protocol. Today’s complex network of wirelessly connected cameras, screens and devices creates a bottomless pit of live streaming content. To give context, Periscope produces 40 years worth of footage daily!

The commercial and promotional opportunities for live streaming your event are growing with the popularity of streaming providers. However, the uncertainty surrounding the raw nature of the content threatens the potential for event planners to incorporate and monetize live stream content in post-event media, sponsorship packages, or other video opportunities.

This is why it’s also important to have a strategy behind your live stream that carefully abides by the law. Lawyer and podcaster Kerry Gorgone’s post is a great resource for marketers to get a better understanding of legal live streaming.

For events, the legal aspects of streaming you should consider BEFORE you start include:

  • public vs. private spaces and whether there is the reasonable expectation of privacy,
  • every individual’s right to publicity, and
  • intellectual property, or copyrighted material being captured in the stream.

Intellectual property includes copyrighted or trademarked material, trade secrets, sensitive company material, and any performance of a work of authorship, which includes but is not limited to keynote speeches, live performances, movie/t.v. clips, and background music.

But before we dive into the challenges and solutions of this new tech, the ability to broadcast live video from your personal device to whomever is willing to watch raises the question: How do you police thousands of users live streaming?

The answer is…you don’t.

But with the potential to accidentally commit copyright infringement and no easy way to moderate the experience, how can these platforms be used at events?

The DMCA & Legal Onus

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) “safe harbour” provision protects services and providers as long as they don’t have prior knowledge of the activity and quickly respond to the rights owners’ takedown requests. However, this poses a timing issue for events or performances that are affected by live streams. With live streaming, the takedown request could be applied to archived material but the damage would have already been done in real time.

While the DMCA has been YouTube’s saving grace, YouTube has systems in place to catch and cut-off broadcast copyright violators with regards to background music and embedded videos, which new platforms like Periscope and Meerkat don’t include.

Being protected by DMCA as well as their own ‘terms of services’ pushes the blame onto the host so policing the thousands of streams isn’t a priority for the providers. Unfortunately, all the legal onus on the host of the stream puts event planners into the line of fire.

Capturing the Venue


A good place to start understanding the legality of live streaming is that it’s very similar to the legality of photographing or recording video at events. The location where the live streaming is taking place will play a factor, as well as indicate the reasonable expectation of privacy. If you’re not on company property, you’ll likely need to get a location release from the property owner in order to legally broadcast the venue space. This is probably included in your venue contract but it’s good to double-check.

What is Considered a Public Place?


The reasonable expectation of privacy refers to the illegality of photographing or recording someone on video, without their consent, while on private property and live streaming is no exception. If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in a personal office, closed meeting room, or private residence, live streaming without permission is a no-go. Whereas if you’re photographing, recording or streaming in a public place (including conference halls, sports arenas or concert venues) there is little to no legal action to be taken.

Since most events take place in what would be considered a public place, you’re in the clear, right? Well not so fast…

Right of Publicity Restrictions

The distinction to be made for streaming in public and an important note for live streaming in general is the “right of publicity” which dictates that any recorded video that’s used for commercial or promotional purposes, requires the permission of individuals shown in the video. Therefore if you were to live stream an event with the intent to profit or promote, and don’t obtain consent from those shown during the broadcast, those people could potentially sue you or your event.

There haven’t been any public examples of legal actions being taken with events over the “right of publicity” but the potential is very real. Avoiding legal complications could be as simple as including a release form as part of your registration or posting a crowd release notice outside the event space.

A crowd release isn’t as legally concrete as signed permission but it will notify attendees of what’s happening and allow them to leave if they don’t want to be a part of the broadcast. Ensure you notify attendees before the event that you will be broadcasting as well as periodically throughout the event to avoid any confusion or issues in the future.

Example crowd release:


Plan Ahead to Avoid Problems

Once you have the location release and attendee’s consent forms posted or collected, the other red flag you’ll need to be weary of is any and all intellectual property that may be captured in your live stream. To best guard yourself against trademark or copyright infringement, check the area that will be visible in your stream for any screens, posters, logos, or artwork and schedule your broadcast around performances, loud music, or sessions that may be covering sensitive material.

A best practice is to avoid high traffic areas where attendees might not realize they’re being streamed because they may say or do something you’d rather not be affiliated with your event. This is where having a contingency plan would come in handy, having a secondary location to stream from with safe sight lines that’s out of the way of your attendees.

At the end of the day, live streaming at your event is generally legal if you’re careful to avoid copyrighted material and collect the appropriate consent and releases. However, in addition to the murky legal waters, the live element of live streaming carries an inherent uncertainty.

Not having control over the content that’s being instantly transmitted to your trusting followers and potential leads is definitely something to consider. Despite the risks, ephemeral content and providers are rapidly gaining notoriety and followers. So do your due diligence and add another arm’s length to your social media reach.

For when you decide that live streaming is right for your event, here is a checklist for what you should do to ensure you’re *legally* live streaming at your event. (Adapted from Kerry Gorgone’s checklist for marketers.)

  1. Have the appropriate release forms and consent ahead of time eg. Crowd release form, location release, and written permission from featured individuals.
  2. Plan ahead and check the area surrounding where your stream will be taking place for posters, logos, artwork, and screens
  3. Schedule the broadcast to avoid music or sensitive material in a session or presentation.
  4. Request written permission from speakers and performers before you include them as part of a stream and ensure they have the rights to all of their own material.
  5. Have a contingency plan, in case the original streaming area is compromised by copyrighted material or crowded by attendees

If you’re ready to see how event technology can enhance your attendee experience, schedule a demo with an EventMobi consultant today.


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