Archives for Photographer’s Rights category

Photographer’s rights have been in the news quite a lot since 9/11 and seemingly even more so this past year, especially in the US and UK.  Everyone from the ACLU to US federal courts to individual photographers have weighed in on one basic question; “what does a photographer have the right to shoot?”.  I wrote about my own “run in” with the law while photographing as well.  There are legal opinions, personal opinions and quite a few rants and raves on the topic.  But in the end, the question stems from an even bigger debate over giving up some personal freedoms in the name of preserving the greater security.  But does one have to be sacrificed for the other?

It is a debate that is not likely to be answered any time soon, for photographers and the public in general, as we have grown accustomed to terror alerts and “patriot acts.”  So as the debate rages on it makes for some good discussion.  One “rant” that I ran across recently was by photographer William Beem.  William Beem’s take on photographer’s rights is well written and worth a read.

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Protective Service yesterday in response to the arrest of a photographer outside a federal courthouse last November.  The suit is on the grounds that federal regulation prohibiting photography used as the basis of the arrest is vague and inconsistently enforced.

The suit asks the court to issue a judgment that the regulation cannot constitutionally be enforced to restrict non-commercial photography in outdoor public areas where pedestrians have an unrestricted right of access, such as plazas, sidewalks and parks.  This has been the defense of photographers throughout the US as their rights as a photographer have seen increased scrutiny everyone from private security guards to local police.

Read more about the suit here.

For a more information on photographer’s rights visit these sources:

The Photographer’s Rights by Bert P. Krages (Attorney)

Legal Rights of Photographer’s  by Andrew Kantor

My friend over at Awesome Toy Blog forwarded me an article from the British Journal of Photography about photographer’s rights in the UK.  There has been a lot of buzz in photography news lately about the rights of both amateur photographers as well as photojournalists in the UK being impeded upon by the police.  Although you hear similar stories of “harassment” from the police of photographers here in the US, the British seem to have taken it to a whole new level.  All in the name of anti-terrorism.

New laws that recently went into effect in the UK  could result in jail for photographing police. The laws:

allow for the arrest – and imprisonment – of anyone who takes pictures of officers ‘likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.

This seems to leave a lot of room for interpretation by the police while limiting the rights of the photographer even further.  There have been stories of everyone from press photographers to wedding photographers being stopped, questioned and even detained for what the police determine to be “suspicious” photography behavior.  I would hope this would be no more than a minor inconvenience for the truly innocent but at the same time it seems to be taking things too far.  Especially when images of more and more public spaces are readily available to anyone on the web via Google maps and live web cams that record more and more of our everyday lives.  Are the terrorists really the ones standing in front of Parliament with their Canon DSLR snapping photographs?

There has been a lot of buzz lately about “Photographer’s Rights,” i.e. what am I allowed to shoot and who, if anyone, has a right to stop me or confiscate my equipment or photos?   If you are a photographer, especially since 9/11, with anything more than a point-and-shoot camera you could potentially find yourself in a situation where your right to photograph something is questioned.

Bank of America Building, Phoenix, AZNot too long ago I was in downtown Phoenix and was stopped twice in one day.   Once by a security guard and once by a Maricopa County Sheriff.  The security guard had undoubtedly seen me on a security camera as I was photographing the exterior of the Bank of America building on a Sunday.  She was very polite when she approached me and simply asked what I was doing and told me “They don’t like you taking pictures of the buildings.” I did not argue the point at the time but thought it was strange since it was a public plaza (Collier) and a skyscraper in downtown Phoenix that had certainly been photographed before.  A simple search on Google results in its own Wikipedia page and a street view of the building on Google maps.

Maricopa County Courthouse Horse Statue - Phoenix, AZFor the second incident later that day I was photographing some public art outside the Maricopa County Courthouse when a sheriff officer pulled over.  Again, he was very polite (and a little bothered because they made him stop on his way to lunch). He asked what I was doing, if it was for business or personal use and to see my identification.  Again, I was not taking pictures of anything secret or not meant for public view.  In fact, the new court house tower has a live web cam watching the construction process.

My encounters with the “law” were minor, but they have certainly made me cautious and think twice about what I am photographing.  So I did some research to get the facts straight.

There are two very good sources available that explain your rights as a photographer and what  you can and cannot do.  Print, read and carry one or both of these in your camera bag.

The Photographer’s Rights by Bert P. Krages (Attorney)

Legal Rights of Photographer’s  by Andrew Kantor

Here is a brief recap of your rights as a photographer in the US.

  • In general, if you can see it, you can photograph it.
  • Public places are fair game to photograph.
  • You are free to photograph private property as long as you are standing on public property.
  • You can photograph people, including children, without their permission as long as they are in a public place and do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Private property used as public property such as malls, churches, and office lobbies are acceptable to photograph.
  • Public infrastructure (except where expressly prohibited by law) such as bridges, airports, public utilities and transportation are all fair game.  There are some exceptions when it comes to military bases adn nuclear power facilities.
  • Police and security guards cannot require you to delete your photos or confiscate your equipment (if you are being arrested there are exceptions).  This requires a court order.
  • The Patriot Act, Homeland Security rulings and anything related to “9/11” do not prohibit photography.
  • These rules apply to taking photographs, publishing and selling them after the fact gets a little more complicated.  But this is covered in the two documents above.