The GRAY area between Public and Private Property

Started Sep 15, 2011 | Discussions thread
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The GRAY area between Public and Private Property
Sep 15, 2011

I work in an office park, and try to go on walks everyday during lunch. Most of the time with camera on hand :). The other day, I was taking a picture of a building, and a security guard ran out of the building and told me that they do not allow pictures to be taken here, and to put my camera away. Since I had already taken the picture I wanted, I decided not to argue with the guard and just go about my merry way.

But, ever since that time, I've been giving some thought to... what is considered private property versus public property? I think it's pretty clear that when you are on public property, you can take pictures of pretty much anything you want (as long as you aren't breaking some other law, or risking national security). It's also pretty clear what needs to be done to shoot on private property (get permission, etc). But, what about areas that could be considered private property (unmarked), but are connected via publicly-accessible sidewalks to public property? This is the gray area in question, and I would like your comments on your approach to photography in these areas.

So far, here is my approach. There are some buildings in the area that have a clear demarcation of what is considered public and private property. The following examples may provide some clarity.

Example 1: Here we have a very tall fence completely surrounding the building. This fence is clearly designed to keep humans out, and is accompanied by perimeter sensors on the outside of the fence. All access is through locked gates. Clearly, the owner of this building doesn't want people on his property. My interpretation: Take all the pictures you want from the sidewalk, but don't attempt to cross the fence.

Example 2: No fences surrounding this building, but clear signage that says that this is private property ("No Trespassing"). My interpretation: Take all the pictures you want from the sidewalk (running next to the street in front of the building), but don't attempt to walk beyond the sign to take pictures within the property.

Example 3: Some decorative fences are on this property alongside the parking lot, and signage that says that parking is restricted to certain people (you may be towed). My interpretation: Don't park your car here without permission. But, take all the pictures you want from the generally accessible areas of the property (the outside parking lots and sidewalks).

Now comes the building in question. It has no signage to say you could be on private property. There are no fences. The sidewalks are seamlessly connected to public sidewalks. From all intents and purposes, unless you knew that some of the buildings in the area were owned by the same company, and might be part of a office campus, you would have no idea (through other means, like signs) that you were not on public property. My interpretation (at least so far): If there is no demarcation to tell the general public that you have entered private property (fence, signs, etc), then the assumption is that you are on property that is accessible to the general public, and that your rights to take pictures extends to that area (unless told otherwise). If someone in authority asks you to leave the property (security or police), then you probably should do that. If you know for certain that you are on public property, and you haven't finished taking the best picture ever , then it might be worth sticking around and trying to argue your right to be there.

Thanks ahead of time for the responses,

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