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A Little Bit More About the Gym that Photographs It’s Patrons

If you read my post yesterday, you’d know that I was in a fitness class where I was videotaped without giving consent.

I can’t really stop thinking about it, for a number of reasons.

Yes, it’s creepy. The gym in a private place where every wall has signs proclaiming it a camera free place. This is a setting where I’ve paid for my privacy, and I feel strange about losing it. But there’s a larger issue.

The big issue (today) is the fact that I’m in the business of partnering with brands. I do so thoughtfully and rarely in order to preserve the value of those relationships. I price myself quite high, and brands frequently say “no thank you” just as I often decline partnerships. This is all strategic. I have worked my ass off creating a business where my endorsement has value.

By appearing in an exercise video for a branded class at a national gym it would (mistakenly) appear to be an endorsement. That would suck.

Naturally, I’ve heard nothing from the gym today. I really didn’t expect to hear anything except oops, because I clearly wasn’t taken seriously yesterday by anyone in any position. We talk about privacy quite a bit, but what are your rules for other people? Do you get signed consent forms? Do you just take a snippet of video where they say “I agree to be filmed”?

And, yes, for those of you in the comments who were guessing who the celeb trainer is, and which huge fitness chain was involved, you were right. I’m not naming any names, because part of me still wants to see this trainer and his wife succeed. Yes, even though they have gone about things in the wrong manner.

Updated to add: They were on the Today show this week, and a class was filmed at my exact gym, with a film crew, and paperwork and things like that. So no one can say that they didn’t know better. They know better.

6 thoughts on “A Little Bit More About the Gym that Photographs It’s Patrons”

  1. If I am not mistaken, a very well known athlete has a piece of that gym or at least his name is tied into it. I have heard that his foundation is responsive to those that contact it.

  2. It wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have a business tied to your online presence. Bottom line is that you were in a location with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and that was violated. It was violated for profit to boot!

    Years ago, I was making a commercial for work and scenes were shot outside in a public place. I could not be there for those shots, so I made it VERY clear (in writing, emails, verbally, etc…) that they were not to capture people in a way that they could be identified. I didn’t even want someone’s head to be included from behind – no need to tie the brand up with embarrassing people. I was reassured that understood and that they got the shots, nobody identifiable or with people’s head from behind.

    The video came back and lo and behold – there’s a woman sitting with her back to the camera, bathing suit on with a profile of her face. Granted, it would have been damn near impossible to positively identify her but it was enough that someone could say, “Mabel, did you see that commercial for xyz? There’s a lady that looks just like you in it!”.

    I told them to take it out. They (the production company) told me no! They said it was fine, that I worried too much. I reminded them who was paying whom and I wanted it out. They argued. I drafted a quick release indemnifying us, requiring them to take on responsibility for any and all lawsuits resulting from the privacy violation for the people in the video and their heirs. The next day I received an edited version. They quit arguing with me too.

  3. I am not a professional photographer, but I am an avid picture taker. Pretty much everywhere I go, I take pictures or videos. My personal rules are that I don’t take pictures of people who I don’t know. I don’t expect that I have a right to display or share photos or videos of people who have not consented, so I do not shoot them.

    If I was at the gym with you yesterday I would be very upset too.

    Creepy is a great word for what that guy did. So is inexcusable, especially since they knew better. I hope you fight this all the way.

  4. Wow, do you really think anyone would spot your BLURRED face amidst 100 women and assume you are there in order to endorse the gym?

    Was this an ego-inflating exercise class? Must be a good one.

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