Videos by pickup artists not illegal
YouTube clips more an ethical dilemma than a legal one
Casey Grace Ferneyhough and her friends were enjoying a walk through Trinity-Bellwoods Park about five years ago when a man sauntered by and began hitting on them. Persistently.
It wasn’t until the man moved on to another group of girls that Ferneyhough noticed a second man following from a few metres away with a camera. Two months later, she discovered the YouTube video the pair made of their attempts to pick up other women in the park that day.
As nasty of a surprise as it may be to find a secretly recorded video of you posted online, there’s very little that women in them can do about it.
The issue of recording people in public without their consent made headlines this month after Calgary police arrested a man they allege posted voyeuristic photos and videos of various women to Twitter under the name CanadaCreep.
CanadaCreep veered into illegal territory by shooting video up women’s skirts, which is a criminal offence.
But recording someone in public space isn’t illegal. Though a civil case might be possible, it would be difficult to win, said Bernice Karn, a lawyer with the law firm Cassels Brock. “The behaviour would have to be fairly outrageous for there to be any likelihood of success,” Karn said in an email.
The techniques used in videos made by self-styled “pickup artists” are more subtle, presenting more of an ethical dilemma than a legal one.
More than 77,000 people follow 30-year-old Vadim Dorfman’s Toronto-based YouTube channel, which is dedicated to teaching men how to seduce prospective dates and improve their lives using real-life examples.
Though some of the women know the camera is rolling, many have no idea. Dorfman and his business partner, 24-yearold Austen Sangfroid, often use a hidden cameraman or a GoPro planted in their apartment.
Most videos on the channel show one of them talking to women on the street.
But in one titled How To Prepare Your Place For Sex (with real examples), women appear in various stages of undress with strategic blurring of their faces and breasts. Others are shown kissing Dorfman, then being carried into a bedroom. Dorfman confirmed that not all know they’re being recorded, but that he tries to hide their identities as much as possible.
Since the blurring obscures their identities, posting such footage doesn’t appear to be illegal, said Toronto police Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook.
Though the pair say they recognize the subjects of their videos might find it “creepy,” they say secrecy is necessary to prove the product works — a product they say has helped change their customers’ lives, giving them confidence and lifting them out of depression.
In the four years since Dorfman began posting videos using the account, called Honest Signalz, it’s grown into a full-time business. He and Sangfroid charge thousands of dollars for in-person workshops.
Austen Sangfroid, left, and Vadim Dorfman in a video from Halloween for their ‘pickup artist’ YouTube channel.