#2017ADA and the Twitter “photo ban”

The leading controversy out of this year’s American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Diego, CA hasn’t been anything really related to Diabetes- or even anything medical. It’s been attempts by the ADA to ban attendees of the conference from sharing photos and accounts of presentations and sessions on social media. While there may be some justification for attempts to enforce this at the ADA conference itself (I don’t believe there is, and I’ll explain that a little further down the page), there have also been “take this post down” messages tweeted at people sharing photos from events that are not even part of the official conference:

Tweet from #DData17 with response from the ADA's official Twitter account

The ADA cracks down on non-conference images

Adding to the irony of this attempt to silence online discussion was the fact that this particular tweet was from a discussion on open innovation.

Now, as to the meat of the issue: Is the ADA justified in asking conference attendees to not share images, etc via social media? My answer is Maybe, but probably not. For reference, here’s the statement by the ADA:

Let’s break some of this stuff down.

… presentations and posters are the legal property of research authors, and that many presentations include unpublished data.

That’s 100% true. I don’t see, however, how it is IN ANY WAY the ADA’s responsibility to police sharing of those presentations and posters. Many authors want their research shared. Those that don’t are still adults, and fully capable of asking presentation attendees to not take photographs or share info.

… the ADA “must adhere to all local and federal laws”

True, but completely irrelevant. There are no local or federal laws on the issue. If there were, every ComicCon attendee would likely be in handcuffs before the end of that conference. ALMOST EVERY ComicCon attendee takes photos of copyrighted material and shares them on social media.

This could “restrict medical research to being published in manuscripts” to protect authors’ legal ownership rights.

Complete and utter bullshit. The choice of where to publish/share something in no way affects the authors’ rights. Further, the fact that a third party violated copyright (assuming that copyright was even asserted) doesn’t affect legal ownership either.

Now admittedly, I’m not a lawyer, but as a Systems Administrator/Architect, I deal with internet-related intellectual property issues on a pretty regular basis. This is just my take on the ADA’s policy and subsequent statement. It’s not legal advice, just as anything I write online is not medical advice (since I’m just a person with diabetes, and not a medical professional).