A Photographer's Rights

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Wasabi Bob, Dec 23, 2010.

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  1. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I’ve been approached by a local newspaper to submit an outline for an article they are planning about “a photographer's rights”. Undoubtedly, some of you may have been confronted by police or security guards and told “you can’t take photos here” or “you can’t photograph this building”. Often 9/11 or The Patriot Act is mentioned. In the U.S. , 99.9% of the time, you are not breaking any laws as long as you are on public ground. And for the record, the only mention of photography in the Patriot Act pertains to photography while on a military base – the Patriot Act does not restrict public photography – anywhere.

    I’ve personally gone nose-to-nose with security guards and police, begging them to arrest me or give me a ticket if I’m breaking the law. They always come up with some reason why they won’t pursue it - hasn’t happened yet! So here’s what I’d like to know from you:

    Have you ever been challenged? If so where and by who?

    Did you stand your ground, or give in to their request?

    Were you asked to delete the photos? If so, did you?

    Are you aware, that in the U.S., photographing ANY building from public property is legal and cannot be restricted?


    As this discussion evolves I think many of you will be surprised to learn how laws are often misquoted and misused often by law enforcement. You may find this Flickr group interesting reading:
    Flickr: Photography is not a crime

    Thanks & Happy Holidays!
     
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  2. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Bob,
    This indeed in an important and touchy issue.
    Feel free to openly discuss this but I must moderate closely against personal and political rants.

    I'm not the KGB, FBI etc must must keep a keen eye on this.
    I depend on you and our members to keep my job easy.
    Thank You my friend...
    Don
     
  3. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Absolutely - I agree!

    Absolutely. I'm just trying to collect factual evidence for the article.
    May I suggest you and others check out this document written by a well known attorney on this subject. I always keep a copy in my camera bag.
    http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf
     
  4. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I occasionally pick up a copy of a UK magazine Digital Photographer, and they have had several articles on this, as apparently, the requirements are much stricter over there. Might be some good research for alternative insight for your article
     
  5. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran


    Yes, I'm aware of their situation. This article will be about life in the U.S. I'm not looking to debate the law, just to gather some personal experiences of real photographers, that I can reference in my article. Nothing more. Along the way we can share factual data from hearsay. There is no place in this discussion for ones personal dislikes of any agency or group.
     
  6. carpandean

    carpandean Mu-43 Top Veteran

    827
    Oct 29, 2010
    Western NY
    As Streetshooter said, it's a touchy subject. I would think that stating what rights we have and relaying stories of when they were violated wouldn't be a problem, but getting into a discussion about why we have or don't have certain rights would get very political quickly. We all have rights (obviously, this thread seems US oriented, but most other countries have similar right and those that don't probably don't allow internet access either), so making each other aware of them and how they are (mis)handled is important.
     
  7. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    This is ok with me. I'm the Admin and will assume responsibility for the content on this thread. It is something worth discussing in a non RANT-ing way.
    Relax guys, the heats on me not you.
     
  8. Phil Rudin

    Phil Rudin New to Mu-43

    6
    Dec 22, 2010
    Let me start, I was a police officer for the city of West Palm Beach, Florida for over thirty years. I had two situations during the thirty years on the street where we ask photographers to stop taking photos in a public place. The first was a photographer taking photos of a nude model in public and was the result of a citizen complaint. They were ask to move on to a less public area. The second and most problematic were news photographers and TV crews walking into crime scenes. They were ask to backup and respect the crime scene tape.

    As a photographer myself for over fifty years I was only ask once to stop taking photos and was not ask to turn over my film. That was by military officers on the Aswan Dan in Egypt. I had a long lens pointed in the direction of what I later found out was a military air port.

    Taking photos of buildings like the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas from the public street for private use is one thing, being able to sell them brings up an entirely different set of copyright laws.

    Phil Rudin
     
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  9. Burkey

    Burkey Mu-43 Regular

    70
    Nov 26, 2010
    Northern New England
    A Resource

    As a long time member of NPPA - The National Press Photographers Association, I suggest you check out their web site - National Press Photographers Association. If you use thier search engine you will find a lot of information that should be helpful for your article. Good luck.
    . . . Burkey
     
  10. carpandean

    carpandean Mu-43 Top Veteran

    827
    Oct 29, 2010
    Western NY
    But did the problem really have anything to do with the photographer being there? :wink:
     
  11. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Midlothian, VA
    Richard Elliott
    I would guess the problem was the sudden proliferation of photographers ...
     
  12. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    The situations are within reason

    Phil , I’m so glad you decided to start this discussion. Having the viewpoint of a law enforcement person hopefully provides a very balanced foundation. So I’m curious, when did you retire? Was it before or after 9/11? I’m asking because a photographer's rights seems to have become an issue after 9/11 .. and justifiably so in some cases.

    You commented, “The first was a photographer taking photos of a nude model in public and was the result of a citizen complaint. They were ask to move on to a less public area.” I’m shocked that they were not arrested for nudity in public! I think your request was certainly justified.

    You went on to say, “ The second and most problematic were news photographers and TV crews walking into crime scenes. They were ask to backup and respect the crime scene tape.” Again, I believe that in most states it would not be “legal” to do anything that would obstruct the law, possibly alter a crime scene, or prevent you from doing your job. Today, many police officers may take exception to being photographed probably because they think someone is trying to catch them doing something they aren't suppose to be doing. I can understand that, but the mere act of photographing them interacting with a crime scene is not illegal.

    You also commented, “As a photographer myself for over fifty years I was only ask once to stop taking photos and was not ask to turn over my film. That was by military officers on the Aswan Dan in Egypt. I had a long lens pointed in the direction of what I later found out was a military air port.” First, you’re not in the U.S. and their laws might not permit such activity. Second, even in the U.S. The Patriot Act does prohibit photography ON military bases so the situation you describe seems reasonable.

    “Taking photos of buildings like the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas from the public street for private use is one thing, being able to sell them brings up an entirely different set of copyright laws.” I’m not an attorney, but I believe that any building / person / event visible from a public place is fair game.
    I hope you continue to monitor this discussion and offer your opinions.
     
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  13. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    I don't believe that taking pictures of public places for personal use is a problem. I do know that copyright laws do come into play though if a picture of a building was used to make money.
     
  14. Phil Rudin

    Phil Rudin New to Mu-43

    6
    Dec 22, 2010
    I retired after 9/11 and I am well aware of the panic that went on within the law enforcement community and the LARGE amount of money the US goverment put out to help address the issue of home land security.

    Among other things I was in charge of the Police departments twelve man dive team. Prior to 9/11 we had never been ask to do inspection of hulls of ships at the Port of Palm Beach. After 9/11 a member of the Dade Co S.O. dive team and I instructed fifty police and fire officers from Palm Beach county how do the hull inspections. I am talking about diving under ships of over 600 feet in length while in port to look for bombs and drugs. The feds put up a budget of 3 million to fund this task at the ports in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties, WPB, Ft. Laud. and Miami. These operations are still being done on an on call basis.

    Regarding the nudity issue, I work in Florida. Toplessness happens all the time here during the summer months. We did not make a habit of arresting in most of these cases because of first ammendment issues.

    To the issue of crime scenes and asking the media to move, the idea was to prevent damage to the crime scene not to keep officers from being photographed or to keep the media from getting images. The media or anyone else has every right to take photos at a crime scene as long as they are not preventing the officers from doing their job.

    Regarding my comments on Egypt, of course they have different laws than the US. Your question was, "Have you ever been challenged? If so where and by who?" I was not on a military base and had no interest in photographing same. I just had my lens pointed in the wrong way at the wrong time. You can stand outside a military base on the public street in the US and shoot towards the base.

    "I’m not an attorney, but I believe that any building / person / event visible from a public place is fair game."

    I agree that taking the photo is "fair game" what I said is that selling the photo is a different issue completely. That is why we have a law regarding model and property release. You can sell a photo of the Bellagio to a magazine doing a story on Las Vegas and not likely have a problem. Try to sell the same image to be used in an advertising campaign and you will need a release.

    To do a professional photo shoot on the public sidewalk in front of the Bellagio you need a permit from the city, to fly over the Vegas strip and shoot from a helicopter you need a permit from the city, I have been involved in a professional shoot doing both.

    Part of your original question should address the issue, are you taking photos for personal non-professional use or are you looking to sell the photos at some point because it makes a difference.

    Phil Rudin
     
  15. Cerebus2

    Cerebus2 Mu-43 Rookie

    21
    Oct 12, 2010
    Yes, three times by local municipal police. In all three cases they were responding to calls from passers-by reporting me. In these cases, I was shooting at night; twice at the roadside and once in a municipal square.

    Once I was challenged in a store by a clerk.

    In cases with the police they made no requests of me other than identification.

    The store clerk asked me to not photograph in the store, which is within the store's rights, so I complied in that case.

    Not by the police, but the store clerk did rudely demand that I delete my photos. I politely declined as this is beyond the store's rights; the store can prohibit photography and can remove me from their premises, but they have no rights to images I take unless I publish them in a manner that requires a release.

    Since I was shooting film, I couldn't have deleted them in any case but she didn't know that.

    Yes.

    -- C
     
  16. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Stay level headed

    I think the biggest mistake many photographers make (when questioned by a police officer) is to respond with a defensive tone. I try to maintain the attitude that I don't know the officer and he doesn't know me. Before we can come to some common level of understanding, we need to go through a basic introduction, to find out why we are both in the situation we found ourselves in.

    Since some commercial photography could be restricted, it's definitely not a good idea to pull out a business card (if that's your business).

    If the person who confronted you is not a true police officer (but rather a security guard), I would not hesitate one second to call the local police if the "security person" maintains that the "no photo" policy is "his employer's" policy. While that may be true, it is not what your civil liberties entitle you to. I'd also be sure to maintain a direct eye contact and ask for the person's name, their supervisor's name and that of his employer. This body language and the questions will send the message that you are well organized and trying to document the situation correctly without acting in a condescending manner. Remember, no one like to be "talked down" to.
     
  17. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    The real question is, What is your intent?
    This may be known to you but not anyone questioning you.
    What I do is to, show my website on my iPhone.
    Then the person questioning me can see my work and it diffuses the situation rather quickly. This is the single most effective device you can apply.
    It works all the time.
    Don
     
  18. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Good idea

    Good idea - I actually carry a portfolio of some of my work in my car.
     
  19. Grant

    Grant Mu-43 Veteran

    I think before people make broad statements about photographer's rights they should realize they can vary with location. I live in Nova Scotia and recently I attended a seminar on photographers right lead by two lawyers. I suspected that rights would be a federal issue and I found that while that was true to some extent there were also provincial flavouring to the rights of photographers. Not only that but I also found out that even the time of day affected my rights for example where I live, trespassing is a civil action during the day and a criminal action during the night.

    The bottom line is before a person gets involved they should make the effort to know their rights as they are not consistent across the board.
     
  20. Wasabi Bob

    Wasabi Bob Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Correct

    Yes, you're correct and that's why, early in this discussion I stated "This article will be about life in the U.S." I know from my research that in the UK for example things are much more restrictive.
     
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