On close inspection, I saw that the contract they wanted me to speak under required me:
* to exclusively assign all rights to the talk to them;
* to indemnify them against all claims (including nuisance claims) arising from the talk (meaning that they could simply hand money to nuisance complainants and send me the bill).
Effectively, this would have meant that I could not adapt this speech for further use, use parts of it in articles, or allow people to share it under CC licenses. It would also have meant that if someone made a baseless legal threat over my speech, they could have given that person money to go away and sent the bill to me, without limitation, forever.
I give hundreds of talks a year and have never been asked to sign a comparable agreement. The agreement was non-negotiable. Campus Party organisers blamed it on the event’s sponsor, Telefonica.
I did not ask for, nor was I offered, any compensation from Campus Party. I was acting as a volunteer, as I have done before for other Campus Parties (in 2011, I chaired Campus Party Mexico City’s headline event, a panel with Tim Berners-Lee, Al Gore and Vint Cerf, also working on a volunteer basis).
Even if I had been working commercially, rather than volunteering, Campus Party’s agreement would have been unacceptable. It is without precedent in my long and broad experience as a paid and volunteer speaker.
I wish I had noticed the offending clauses in the contract sooner. I should have looked more closely. In my defense, my previous experience with Campus Party led me to trust them, and in my rush to get things squared away, I didn’t give it the attention it was due.
I am very sorry that I won’t be able to appear at the event tonight, and I hope that anyone who is attending to see me will understand, and will come to some future event in London instead. For example, I’m appearing at Nesta’s Futurefest later this month (http://www.futurefest.org/).
I hope that the main Campus Party organisation will reconsider its relationship with the UK event and require them to treat their volunteers in an equitable and fair manner, and not with heavy-handed, one-sided, unprecedented contracts that strip unpaid speakers of their rights to use their own words in the future.
This is only the second or third time I’ve cancelled a public engagement in more than a decade of touring and speaking, and it’s the only time I’ve cancelled on such short notice. But I had no choice. Campus Party’s contract would have effectively taken away my ability to work and speak on the subject of my life’s work, and they were unwilling to modify it.