Draft Release Forms Handbook

The SCA uses signed release forms to document that it has received consent from individuals to publish their personal information, feature their likeness, or use creative works they have created.

As best I can tell, the current system was put into place around 2010, in order to ensure the organization was legally protected, and to avoid complaints from people who felt their material had been inappropriately used without their permission. (Perhaps there was an earlier arrangement that served the same purpose in the prior decade, but if so I haven’t been able to find any documentation of it.)

The same provisions apply to both newsletters (under the purview of the Chroniclers) and websites (the Webministers) although there are minor variations in the rules for online and printed material — and by logical extension they presumably apply to publicity material (Chatelaines) and social media (Social Media Officers).

This arrangement resulted in nearly-identical policy materials being published by varying offices, and didn’t make it clear who was supposed to maintain those policies over time, with the result that they have gone more than a decade without substantive updates.

Over the last few years I have tried to serve as a resource for local officers in my province and kingdom, helping them understand the relevant rules and collecting feedback about friction points, and as time went on, I started reaching out to folks in other kingdoms and at the Society level in order to understand emerging practices in our current Internet-centric working environment.

In early 2021, I volunteered for the team working to update the Webministry’s handbook, and took the lead in revising the decade-old guidelines on how to implement these release-form policies. Over the course of a couple of months, I ended up completely rewriting this chapter from scratch, and extending it to also cover the related challenges encountered by those working in other offices.

I also drafted new versions of the release forms themselves, which addressed the most frequent points of confusion I had seen people encounter in the course of collecting releases for use by our local province. These forms retain the same core legal language as the original forms from 2010, but organize the page differently, with a different series of checkboxes and fill-in fields, both to make it easier for people to execute them and to better support new scenarios like online videos that hadn’t been envisioned when the old forms were drawn up.

After repeatedly reaching out to Society officers and the corporate leadership, I managed to get some buy-in on the idea of packaging this material as a new Society-wide handbook that could be used by all relevant officers.

With the approval of the Society Webminister, I excised all of my new material from the draft webministry handbook and re-framed it as a standalone document for consideration by Society leadership. That draft, as assembled at the end of last year and lightly tweaked last month, is attached below.

Draft Release Form Handbook for the SCA
(PDF, 24 pages, December 2021 / March 2022)

As noted in red on the front page, this is a totally unofficial draft that has not been reviewed or approved by the Society’s leadership or corporate governance bodies, and should not be taken as authoritative in any way — it is entirely a speculative exercise, created as the basis for future work and possible eventual adoption.

The process of working with the Society’s corporate leadership has been incredibly slow and frustrating, presumably worsened by the fact that they didn’t have any particular reason to take me seriously: I’m just some random person with no specific authority or special position, who just happened to get obsessed with this topic and dedicated hundreds of hours to trying to improve the situation.

But hopefully some future version of this handbook will eventually be published, and I’ll be able to breathe a bit easier knowing that my effort wasn’t all in vain.

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