Summer camps this year will overwhelmingly be virtual. In this new world, camp administrators cannot simply reuse the legal agreements and releases, privacy policies, codes of conduct and copyright policies they have been using for in-person camps. Each of these elements, together with the camp’s insurance coverage, forms part of an overall risk management program that needs to adapt to changing facts.
It’s important to talk with the camp’s insurance broker to explain the plans for the summer, confirm that current coverage contains no relevant exclusions and determine if any additional coverages are needed. It’s even possible that a downward premium adjustment may be appropriate.
- Staffing. All the same rigorous hiring practices and checks should be followed as for in-person camps.
- Youth protection measures. Just as with in-person camps, at all times there must be two staff members in attendance. This practice should apply to both formal sessions and informal follow-up.
- Online platforms. Camps need to choose their online platform carefully, explore its settings and security features and ensure uniform application of protective measures. Prohibit or have rules as to use of chat functions. Determine how the campers’ names will be displayed in online sessions. (See Privacy, below.)
- Recording. All sessions should be recorded so there is a record if any issues are later raised. Videos should be stored securely. (See Privacy, below.)
- Backgrounds. Consideration should be given as to whether instructors should wear camp t-shirts, have a neutral background, background with a logo, etc.
- Emergencies. Be sure there is complete contact information for all campers and have procedures in place to deal with visible emergencies. Make sure any supplies provided are safe and will not cause any allergic reactions.
- Clear policies. Have stated policies as to such matters as absences and refunds.
The agreements and waivers used by the camp for in-person sessions need to be revised to reflect the new circumstances. Some of the new provisions that the camp will want to include are the following:
- Supervision. The agreements need to be clear that camp staff are hosting the virtual camp sessions and providing content but are not supervising the campers. It should be stated that parents are responsible for supervising their children, and the camp is not legally responsible for any accidents or injuries.
- Acts of other campers. Likewise, agreements should release the camp from liability for acts of other campers that may be offensive to a particular child since the camp cannot be responsible for failure of another child to follow its code of conduct.
- Indemnifications. Indemnification provisions should be reviewed and revised to reflect the unique risks involved in going virtual.
Virtual camps necessarily create a window into the student’s world and necessitate thinking about how to respect camper privacy.
- Only personal information that is actually necessary should be collected by the camp.
- Because video recording constitutes the collection of personal information, privacy policies should reflect that sessions will be recorded and clearly state how recordings will be used and shared. If campers are to be personally identified, this needs to be clearly stated. It should be noted that recordings may incidentally capture other individuals in the room with the camper.
- Consider stating how campers’ names will be displayed on-screen.
- If the camp is subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) then parental consent is needed before any personal information is collected from children under 13. Note that although for-profit camps must comply with COPPA, most nonprofit camps are exempt, although many will choose to comply.
Camper Code of Conduct
The camp’s code of conduct for campers should be revised to address appropriate online behavior.
Music Copyright Issues
The camp must examine its music licenses and determine what additional or alternative licenses are required for virtual camps.
The American Camp Association website indicates that it has an agreement with ASCAP that allows ACA-accredited camps to use ASCAP-licensed music for free. The license is for use on camp premises only. However, a temporary change allows ASCAP-licensed music to be used in online programming only for so long as the camp is not taking place in person. Any videos using recorded ASCAP-licensed music must be removed from the online platform once this temporary period has ended. (It’s not clear from the ACA website whether archival or personal use can continue.) In addition to ASCAP, there are two other major performance licensing societies – BMI and SESAC – that the camp may need to obtain licenses from depending on the music being used.
If the virtual sessions will use music pre-recorded by a third party, a digital transmission is involved and thus a sound recording license is also needed for each recording. If the recording is synchronized with video, a synch license is needed as well. Generally, both licenses are granted by the recording company, but it often takes some research to identify the appropriate licensor. There are some libraries of pre-recorded music that can facilitate the process. (All this will change for future summers under the new compulsory licensing regime enacted by the Music Modernization Act, which becomes effective on January 1, 2021.)
If the virtual camp involves a re-branding of the camp’s name or other new trademark, be sure to protect the mark with federal registration.
For an excellent collection of resources about virtual summer camps, see the website of the American Camp Association.