The time is now to counter the troubling proliferation of socially irresponsible video online, and that starts with each of us. That's why I've put together what I believe is the first-ever, "Pledge for Online Video Responsibility," which I hope can help both online video professionals and enthusiasts be more mindful and considerate of others.


Our central mission is to create an environment in the online video space built on mutual respect and trust. We believe that anyone who participates with online video – be they a professional or enthusiast, a creator or contributor, a service provider or user, a publisher or marketer, analyst or blogger, evangelist or critic, entertainer or newscaster – carries a obligation to be mindful of others and behave in an ethically responsible manner. We realize that doing so is essential to providing healthy growth for online video as an industry, and for each of us as part of a larger community.

We also realize that online video provides us with many benefits, some of which we have grown to depend on. That is why we must be committed to keeping online video a prosperous industry; and it starts with each of us making a commitment to learning, practicing, sharing, and leading with responsible online video activities.

For these reasons and others, I solemnly pledge to do no harm to others through my online videos and to act in an ethical manner with any and all online video activities, be they of a personal or professional nature.

I Pledge To Do The Following:

I will not encourage "cyber-bullying”

  • I will not video record and post a video online of anyone I know is being intimidated, harassed, assaulted, or harmed in any way that 1) the person neither gave their consent to do so, 2) I cannot defend as being news-worthy, or 3) I am not willing to share as evidence of criminal activity with law enforcement or other local authority figures.
  • I will not harass, threaten, or intentionally defame anyone in an online video I am responsible in any way for creating.
  • I will not harass, threaten or defame anyone with my comments posted in or around an online video, or linking to an online video.
  • I will not create or publish any video to encourage personal attacks against any person or persons featured in a video, or referred to in a video.
  • I will not create, publish, or promote any video that is done for the primary intention of causing emotional suffering to someone else.
  • I will alert authorities to any act of cyber-bullying captured through online video, and gather and report relevant evidence to local authorities.

I will fully respect others right to privacy

  • I will not video record a private individual without that person's permission.
  • I will not edit or remix a video meant for online consumption that involves individuals who are not public figures, or not in a situation that a reasonable person would deem to be "news-worthy," without each of those individuals' expressed consent (including wavering their privacy rights).
  • I will not share nor distribute a video created by anyone else that is marked "private;" and is not already on a public website, or any publicly accessible location on the Internet.

I will respect the special protection of minors

  • I will never video record minors without the expressed permission of parent or guardian responsible for the minor's well being.
  • I will never video record on a school campus where minors are present, without the expressed permission of the parent or guardian, and of the school administration.
  • I will never exploit a minor for personal gain by recording, creating, editing, publishing, distributing or promoting a video featuring any children.

I will respect others' reputation

  • I will not set out to portray anyone in a situation that would appear to a reasonable audience as being highly inappropriate or offensive.
  • I will not portray anyone in a false light, nor set out to harm anyone's reputation or character.

I will respect others' right of publicity

  • I will not use anyone's image or likeness in my video to imply that they are endorsing or promoting the message of the video without first getting written permission from that person or persons.
  • I will not use any video of a person's image or likeness for commercial or promotional purposes without first securing a signed written permission.

I will read and follow video service provider guidelines

  • I will commit to providing any service provider community, including YouTube and other video-sharing-sites (free or paid), video platforms, social media websites, and community-based websites, with my best efforts to comply with both their Community Guidelines and their Terms of Service.
  • I will make an effort to notify such service providers of any online videos I come across that I find to be patently offensive and potentially harmful to others, and that may violate the service provider's guidelines

I will be transparent

  • I will reveal my true identity (my actual full name) in any video I publish and in any comments around any video that I may post (either publicly or privately).
  • I will provide my audience with a legitimate means of contacting me for any video I post to a public site, and for any online comments to a video or video-sharing site.
  • I will be honest with others about my true intentions with shooting and publishing video that involves either private or public individuals, or groups.
  • I will inform the affected parties when I am being paid by an advertiser or other sponsor.
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I will show a respect the truth and the facts

  • I will respect the authenticity of the video images and the message.
  • If a video is meant to be a parody or a satire, I will clearly state in plain view of my intended audience that it should be treated as such.
  • I will not identify my video with false headlines, thumbnails, keywords, or other copy as a means of misleading my audience as to the actual content and purpose of the video.
  • Differences of opinion with others in my video will be dealt with by clearly differentiating between what is my opinion and the provable facts.
  • In all matters pertaining to video recording public and private individuals, I will maintain my objectivity and integrity at all times.

Legal Responsibilities

  • I am committed to understanding copyright law and the term "Fair Use" to determine the circumstances of when I can feature someone else's copyrighted work in my video without attribution.
  • When so required, I will properly attribute other people's work in my own video
  • I commit to understanding what is meant by "Creative Commons" and identifying how to secure the permission to use other person's copyrighted work that I will use in my video
  • I will obey all licensing guidelines for featuring other people's videos or any form of media in my own video creation.
  • I will learn the basics of trademark law, so as not to misuse another person's trademark rights in my video or to confuse the public.
  • I will seek legal advice, when necessary to ensure compliance with Trademark and Copyright laws and the intellectual and other rights of others with a valid claim under these Laws.
  • I will learn about local, state and federal laws that govern the creation, publication, and distribution of online video and commit to following such Laws.
  • I will follow legislation involving or affecting online video, or news sources that provide information on such legislation.
  • I commit to respecting the rights of others and to intervene when necessary when Laws violate such rights and to act at all times in a socially responsible manner.
  • If I am a witness to anyone in the act of video recording an unwilling participant (who is not a public figure and not in a situation that a reasonable person would consider to be "news-worthy,”) I will inform the videographer of the inappropriate action and/or report the incident to law enforcement.
  • I will engage others in the online video community in a dialogue to emphasize the rights of all parties and the obligations of those who record, create, edit, publish, distribute, or otherwise promote a videos

Ethical Obligations

My actions are guided by these principles:

  • To build trust in those who rely on my independence and objectivity in making and evaluating online videos of others
  • To act in a responsible manner and always consider the consequences of my actions before making decisions
  • To defend my actions if questioned by others, or if they were to appear in any public media or venue.
  • To encourage others to join me in using online video responsibly, thoughtfully, and respectfully – both towards others and ourselves

Special Thanks and Helpful Links

A special thanks goes out to my two editorial advisors on this Pledge For Online Video Responsibility:

I also encourage people interested in learning more about ethics and professional conduct with online video to check out the following resources:

  • Code of Ethics for Bloggers, Social Media and Content Creators. An excellent draft piece by digital media business owner, web developer, and blogger Morten Rand-Hendriksen out of British Columbia, Canada.
  • SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) Code of Ethics – As Gordon is good to remind me, video production (whether for online or other use) is often very similar to other forms of journalism. "Not all video makers are journalists, but all can benefit from some understanding of how and why journalists do things the way they do." he says.
  • WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) Ethics Code

  • Lorraine Grula

    It is unfortunate that enough incidents have happened to make a pledge like this seemingly necessary. Of course the problem with that, is anyone who would be so cruel and disrespectful to post video that would embarrass someone else to the point of distress, or suicide, is not going to take a pledge to be nice and responsible.

    Truthfulness is the biggie in my opinion. Let's not dress up in a pimp outfit in a cutaway that is designed to fool the audience into thinking we walked into an office dressed that way. Good luck with this one:

    "clearly differentiating between what is my opinion and the provable facts."

    I know some cable news networks that don't bother with that one. Sorry to be cynical. I've been in this business far too long. Look at how successful the pimp guy was with his video. Got congress to destroy years of progressive effort with a crock of lies. I appreciate your efforts but I won't hold my breath.


    Hello. As an artist I enjoy shooting Still Photos and recording Video Clips of things that I have a passion for and that interest me. That's all the pledge I require in my life. JOHN LONGENECKER, DGA / Director/Cinematographer / Academy Award Winner.

  • Ruth Hussey

    Hello. I plan to shoot Still Photos and record Video Clips that interest me. That's my pledge. JOHN LONGENECKER, DGA / Director/Cinematographer / Academy Award Winner.

    • Ruth Hussey


  • Gordon Firemark

    This pledge may not be for everyone, but it's a good start. Media production and distribution is an area with numerous pitfalls. Abiding by an ethical code or pledge is a good way to avoid many such perils. We should be mindful that compliance with the law is often a minimum level of responsibility we can undertake. Often as not, ethics, morals and common-sense set the bar a bit higher.

    Nothing in this pledge encroaches on freedom of speech or the press, it merely proposes a set of guidelines to exercising those freedoms responsibly. Not all of the tenets of the pledge will apply to all videographers or to all situations... but it's still worthwhile to have a 'code' to guide our conduct in most situations.

  • Sue Haberkorn

    I pledge to abide by the Video Code of Ethics and promote those ethics to all whom I do business with.
    Sue Haberkorn SWFL-OnlineVideo.

  • Ethics Sage

    Thanks for the attribution, Grant. Perhaps a follow-up can be done where we explain the value and use of the “Pledge.” First, we don’t expect anyone to sign it but, instead, to commit to its principles. Second, the Pledge can be used as an educational tool to sensitize young people to their obligations when posting online videos and other communications on the Internet including blogging. Third, it can serve as a prototype for more profession-specific pledges of responsibility such as marketing and communicating online services. Lastly, the Pledge can be used by online video groups to set the proper ethical tone within the organization.

  • Grant Crowell

    Hey Steve – thanks for your thoughtful comments. Good we have a debate going!

    Of course I respectfully disagree. I think the language in this pledge allows for pretty much all of what you listed, save for shooting videos of kids doing stupid things. It's not socially responsible to shoot other people's kids and post them up for the public to see, even if they are acting like jackasses. Can you legally do it if they're in a public place? Yes, of course. But this is about doing what's socially responsible. It's wholly evident that we have a breakdown in civility and respecting other people, and online video has too often been our excuse for looking to capture "bad" behavior, or sometimes encourage and instigate it. Unless you can make an argument that showing a kid behaving badly or doing something stupid is something that deserves lots of media attention and should be available for the world to see, then I think you're going to have some very angry kids and parents after you (and doing the same or worse to you when they find you). I don't want to live in a digital culture where we have to constant be worried about whatever we watch and say, because someone may want to take out a flip camcorder and try to get some quick traffic and made some money off YouTube. We need to do better, and we need to encourage others to do better. We can do better.

    • Grant Crowell

      Sorry, I realize I read Ethics Sage's response wrong. Yes, I do agree that a follow-up can and should be done.

  • Steve Garfield

    Hi Grant,
    I know you mean well, but no one is going to 'sign' this pledge.

    If they did, they wouldn't be able to shoot and share ANYTHING.

    If they did, there wouldn't be any videos on YouTube.

    If they did, there wouldn't be video on the nightly news.

    If they did, Any Carvin wouldn't have any protest videos to link to.

    If they did, there wouldn't be any political videos of Rick Perry.

    If they did, there wouldn't be any videos of kids doing stupid things.

    If Google posted this pledge for it's YouTube and Google+ users, the internet as we know it would explode.

    I better pledge would be, "I'll use common sense when shooting and sharing video."


  • John McCann

    Grant, I'm sorry. I simply don't accept your premise that there is a proliferation of socially irresponsible videos online.

    Even if there was, who stands qualified to arbitrate the meanings of such vague pledge terminology as; socially responsible, ethical, thoughtful, respectful and reasonable?

    In a real, work-a-day sense, your pledge might forbid me from shooting a youth baseball game in a public park? Lots of minors... parents not in attendance to give 'permission' to shoot... maybe an unwitting or unwilling spectator or two in the bleachers.

    No, I think I choose to assume *personal* responsibility for my activities. I carry copies of 'The Photographers Rights' in my gear bag ( because shooters have rights, too. I won't be harassed or detained, or have my equipment seized because of someone's bias against legal photography/ videography.

    • Patricia Kelley

      Change is is the ability to be flexible. I pledge to NOT vote for anybody who signs any kind of pledge.

  • John McCann

    What a silly crock! We struggle and struggle to protect free speech rights and somebody drafts this drivel. 'Pledge' BTW is an unfortunate word these days thanks to Grover Norquist. Give it a rest.

  • Rene Amador

    *I commit to respecting the rights of others and to intervene when necessary when Laws violate such rights and to act at all times in a socially responsible manner.

    *If I am a witness to anyone in the act of video recording an unwilling participant (who is not a public figure and not in a situation that a reasonable person would consider to be “news-worthy,”) I will inform the videographer of the inappropriate action and/or report the incident to law enforcement.


    Why include this bs? How can you presume the nature of a video simply from observing the recording?

    What the industry really needs is a commitment to not take projects that are paying below minimum wage. It brings the work down in quality, it invites creators to take the short-cuts mentioned in the pledge, and it creates hours of lost sales efforts for legitimate creators.

  • Graham Baldwin

    This does seem a little OTT to me too but there is nothing here that I don't agree with in principle. All the 'moral' stuff is what I always try to practice anyway and I think the US are a little more sensitive to keeping strictly within the letter of the law than perhaps we British are...!

  • Jonathan Glazier

    I am still trying to work out if this is for real. Thats not to say I don't agree with all the points made here. Producer guide lines at the bbc run to about 200 pages! But they are a guide, sure a guide to be followed. This feels a bit to "thou shalt not" to me. But as I said a agree with the points made.
    A sad reflection of the times, surely we'd all simply expect these points as a matter of common sense!