I’ve been studying to take the Oklahoma Bar Exam recently (test next Tuesday, wish me luck!), reviewing the generally accepted standards of agency law, and I now have a newfound respect for the instructions that the organizers of the Game Developers Conference volunteer worker program (otherwise known as Conference Associates, or CAs) give every year about not doing anything untoward either while on or off duty with your organization-issued t-shirt on.

As one of the organizers, Ian, made clear recently in an e-mail discussion, “CAs are perceived to represent GDC but are not affiliated with UBM which as we can imagine, makes UBM nervous.” Damn, I’d be nervous too! Under general agency principles, anyone (even minors) held out as acting with the apparent authority of a principle (UBM in this case) can create both contract and tort liability for things that they do within the scope of the employment. If what you’re doing is in furtherance of a principle’s business (such as, say, denying someone with the wrong badge access to a session), the principle can even be liable for an agent’s INTENTIONAL TORTS. (For those that don’t know, intentional torts are the civil law version of things like assault, battery, and false imprisonment)

Not that anyone volunteering should need reminding of all this, but I was just amazed at the universe of legal consequences that UBM is embracing when they authorize Tim and Ian to hand you a brightly colored shirt. So when they tell us, “do NOT touch an attendee, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES,” keep in mind just how seriously they mean it. Even if something questionable we do is ultimately held by a court to be okay, people these days love to sue and even borderline cases could cause a world of hurt (and $$$) for the people that make the conference possible.

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