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ACLU publishes guide to photographers' (and videographers') rights

By dpreview staff on Sep 9, 2011 at 17:53 GMT

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has published a guide to photographers' rights in the US. Following a series of cases of photographers being challenged, and even charged, over shooting images and video of police officers, the ACLU has published a guide to what you are allowed to do as a photographer. It goes on to advise on how to respond if you are challenged by the police and details the additional considerations for people capturing sound recordings of events.

Click here to read the ACLU guide to photographers' rights

Comments

Total comments: 112
Larry Winters
By Larry Winters (Nov 22, 2011)

The ACLU has minimal legal authority and their guide has the same..Unfortunately, any cop can do whatever they want at anytime with regard to Photographers or anyone else under the Homeland Security Act and a myriad of other statutes...Suspicious activity is what they usually call it, no matter the validity...

Until the HSA is repealed or largely rewritten, the US Citizen and legal visitors are at the mercy of the cop for the day...Quoting your believed rights may feel all noble and all, but the current law of the land has taken many of those rights away by the open ended probable cause authority granted to police officers...

Bottom line, try not to make yourself noticed and you'll probably get better shots and avoid any confrontation as well..

Lastly, don't rely on this BS from the ACLU!!!

0 upvotes
pietrozuco
By pietrozuco (Sep 13, 2011)

There is an iPhone app called "Photographers Rights" that can help photographers to know their rights in different countries (Legal rules for USA, Australia, Canada, UK, Japan, Spain, Italy, France.)

The app explains what can be and can not be done, what is legal and illegal. What are your rights, how should we behave in case to be approached by an police officer and so forth. It also provides common questions in French, Japanese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian that can be played using the iPhone speaker. So a photographer that doesn't understand the language of a specific country, can still ask common questions using the iPhone.

It's available in the iTunes Store, search for Photographers Rights, it costs $1.99

2 upvotes
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

Most "apps" are just parts of websites. Use a website and ditch the "apps"

0 upvotes
RacingManiac
By RacingManiac (Sep 12, 2011)

How does first amendment pertain to non-US person in US?

2 upvotes
RHWeiner
By RHWeiner (Sep 12, 2011)

Yes, I'd be curious about that too. What are my rights, as a foreigner (albeit a neighbor from Canada), in terms of being stopped or arrested?

1 upvote
Ed Gaillard
By Ed Gaillard (Sep 12, 2011)

According to the ACLU, "Non-citizens who are in the United States—no matter what their immigration status—generally have the same constitutional rights as citizens when law enforcement officers stop, question, arrest, or search them or their homes"

See http://www.aclu.org/national-security/know-your-rights-when-encountering-law-enforcement in particular the PDF file "Additional information for non-citizens".

1 upvote
kidcharles
By kidcharles (Sep 13, 2011)

This is an important question that is not well understood by many Americans and non-U.S. citizens. The U.S. Constitution specifically spells out rights for "people" and rather than for "citizens." This is not an accident. Visitors to the U.S. have the same legal rights and responsibilities as citizens.

1 upvote
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

The 1st amendment applies to being able to speak out against an oppressive government and not a right to say what you want, where you want, and to who you want. Since there are privacy laws as well as private property. You can be sued for saying what you want to say as well!

0 upvotes
Larry Winters
By Larry Winters (Nov 22, 2011)

Maybe the ACLU should explain that ILLEGAL aliens are not legal immigrants or legal visitors and therefore have no guaranteed Constitutional Rights other than deportation...

0 upvotes
MarcMedios
By MarcMedios (Sep 12, 2011)

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. I can just see someone pulling out the article when the Miami Beach Police are firing away indiscriminately!

2 upvotes
Ron Scubadiver
By Ron Scubadiver (Sep 12, 2011)

The ACLU article is not correct as far as Texas is concerned. Take pictures of teenage girls that only include the torso and you go to prison. The law is extremely vague and probably unconstitutional. Worse yet, the Texas ACLU supported it's passage.

2 upvotes
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

And they will probably put you in their electric chair for that! Stay the blank out of Texas. They are messed up. Just look at their governor in the GOP debates! LOL. There was a huge applause at the GOP debate in Texas when as part of a question it was said the State of Texas has murdered 230+ convicted criminals this year alone. Scary!

1 upvote
MarceloSalup
By MarceloSalup (Sep 12, 2011)

A very important article that should be posted and reposted in every photographer's blog

1 upvote
TX Photo Doc
By TX Photo Doc (Sep 11, 2011)

"When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view."
Is VA land at at VA facility considered public spaces or private spaces? My story: a few years ago I was at Temple, Texas VA hospital to have some routine periodic medical tests. I saw on a wall, a black & white photo of a long double line of American Flags flapping in the wind. (Can't get too much more patriotic than that.) After my tests were done, I went outside and started to take color photos of the same flags. I was immediately stopped by cop in a VA car telling me - in not the nicest way - that I was to stop immediately, or else! That was after explaining why I was taking the photos. Since I had no choice, I walked back in the car where my wife was parked and scooted away - very unhappy. (as an aside, I happen to be a very active amateur photographer with many ribbons and exhibits to my credit.)

0 upvotes
kidcharles
By kidcharles (Sep 13, 2011)

I'm not a lawyer but a VA hospital is public property and not a protected military base so I would say that the cop acted inappropriately. To tell a veteran that they can't take pictures of flags outside a VA is pretty damn low.

3 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

The question I have, which this doesn't answer, is about private property that is effectively a public space, like the outdoor areas of a shopping center. Do rules for a "public space" apply, or rules for "private property"?

0 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 10, 2011)

private property.

1 upvote
pL86
By pL86 (Sep 13, 2011)

Incorrect, it depends on the state. In some states, the common areas of a shopping mall is considered the functional equivalent of a traditional public space and thus, free speech/activity is protected as long as it doesn't interfere with the commercial activity of the mall. California is one of these states. In CA, you would have the right to take photos in the parking lot or even in the common areas inside the mall.

0 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 22, 2011)

Thanks for the correction pL86. Since I live in CA myself I'd be interested in the which state laws apply to the shopping mall case you describe. So if you know where to look for that info please let us know, it might come in use.

0 upvotes
BMWX5
By BMWX5 (Sep 10, 2011)

Can this fan use the ACLU guide against the security of this stadium or not?

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2007/09/you_cant_take_pictures_here_co.html

0 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

Did you READ the article linked above? The redskins stadium is private property, so according to the ACLU they can establish whatever rules they want regarding photography. However, if those rules are not written down, publicized, and enforced consistently there could well be grounds for a lawsuit over that fan's treatment.

1 upvote
Robert J. Gonzalez
By Robert J. Gonzalez (Sep 11, 2011)

Property owners have one authority and one only. They can tell you to leave or allow you to stay. Period. And you can bet I'll still be snapping photos on my way to the property line and there ain't jack they can do about it.

0 upvotes
halfmac
By halfmac (Sep 11, 2011)

I have found that we have no rights as photographers in professional athletic stadiums - so I don't go anymore. A few years ago I tried with no success to enter the Safeco Field in Seattle with a 30 year old Tamron 300mm f2.8 SP on my Olympus E-1. I was told that my lens was "too big". That I was competing with the "professional photographers" who were photographing the game. My solution - don't patronize these overpaid sports teams so I have not even watched a game on TV.

2 upvotes
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

Redskins stadium may be owned by the city or state; however, the football team may be renting the stadium for the day and so their regulations and restrictions will hold up since they are in charge of the event.

0 upvotes
JEPH
By JEPH (Sep 10, 2011)

Reading the majority of comments thus far, I am concerned about the knowledge and attitudes of Americans.

1 upvote
flumpkin
By flumpkin (Sep 11, 2011)

What about the comments here gives you cause for concern as to the "knowledge and attitudes of Americans"? To begin with, the people commenting here aren't necessarily claiming to be American. However, even if we assume they are Americans, I fail to see how raising questions as to the applicability of the laws of the United States of America reflects poorly on the knowledge and attitudes of its citizens. The legal structure here is quite complex and in situations such as many of the ones raised by commenters here, especially where legal doctrine remains unsettled, people are quite justified in raising questions about their rights.

0 upvotes
BitFarmer
By BitFarmer (Sep 12, 2011)

I agre with JEPH in part: Reading that making a shoot of a teen's torso can take you to jail is totlally incredible and make me promise my self never to go there, really.

I have 3 kids and I love making photos of them, some times they are 100% naked, and I post those shoots in their blog, they are 100% natural and not offending anyone, i think, but if I where to the U.S., a cop could take me to jail just for this natural shoots!!!!

Scaring, very scaring, after all, they are my kids and they are like this. Taking such a shoot of a dog is ok, but not of ourselves... antinatural, this is a abomintion for me, like painting black stripes over a clasic sculpture of venus or apolo!

I can't understand this ways from some of the U.S. states, not at all.

2 upvotes
7enderbender
By 7enderbender (Sep 12, 2011)

This, I honestly don't get. As an American not by birth but by choice I'm familiar with the old accusation of the "prude" American. And I am willing to acknowledge that some things that were instated with decent intentions can and have occasionally gone overboard. I as well cringe when I hear about these ridiculous cases where some overzealous lab person called DSS on a family taking offense of private nude pictures of children on vacation that were otherwise completely harmless.

However, I also cringe at people taking oh so "natural" pictures of little one to post them on the internet or their "blog". I seriously don't get either. And I am certainly no prude, like to taking pictures of my own little ones (and that includes those cute pictures from the bathtub to send off to grandma) and I strongly believe that consenting adults should be able to do whatever they wish as long as they're not interfering with others.

1 upvote
7enderbender
By 7enderbender (Sep 12, 2011)

The Texas law I'd have to see in detail. This, honestly, is the only area again where the ACLU may take it a step too far again. I agree with the general notion that you may take whatever photos you like in a public space. If I catch anyone sticking a camera phone up my daughter's or wife's skirt I'll smash in the photographer's face with his camera.

And I don't expect the ACLU to take on my case. But I would expect the legislature to have some provisions against this type of

photography as this is not a First Amendment issue. In fact, I would indeed extend that to all minors that are intentionally

photographed by strangers without consent of a parent.

0 upvotes
jamesm007
By jamesm007 (Sep 10, 2011)

I have been questioned by the police and just stood my ground and they leave. There is more education now about photography for all peoples; law enforcement and the public.

All of this goes back to 911. How can I relate it? People now live with fear in the USA. Its in thier minds and they don't even know it. So any threat big or small or very small is viewed by the person as serious such as a camera.

Funny thing is all kids are putting themselves on facebook and parents with thier names! And you think a photographer is a threat! Some people are to ....... to know what a real threat is!

I mean come on any kid with Internet access is more dangerous than any photographer could ever be.

Everyone is taking pics these days, the camera is in the cellphone. Enough of the picture taking rights. We all know we can take pics of anything we want on public property period.

2 upvotes
Dabbler
By Dabbler (Nov 23, 2011)

What you're legally entitled to and what an irate officer looking to badger someone will do are two distinct realities. You really have to sense whether an officer is just doing his job or looking for someone to push around to stroke his ego.

0 upvotes
photoaddict
By photoaddict (Sep 10, 2011)

ACLU sure comes handy at times!

1 upvote
smafdy
By smafdy (Sep 10, 2011)

For all of the knee-jerk knuckleheads dissing the ACLU, they have defended your patron saint — Rush Limbaugh — on numerous occasions, and at no cost to the gigantic, bloviating, hate-filled windbag.

On a related note, does anyone else ever wonder why there are cameras on almost every light post nowadays, but virtually none in our courtrooms or in the meeting chambers or offices of our government officials?

6 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 10, 2011)

smafdy - I'm not sure about your town but in mine those traffic light cameras are mainly in place to detect cars waiting for the stoplight. They are a substitute for the electromagnetic coils in the pavement for car detection. As far as I know the videostream from those cameras ends at an image processor in the cabinet on the curb. There the videostream is analyzed for use on controlling the traffic lights. I don't think that the videostream is sent onwards and/or recorded but you never know.

0 upvotes
Robert J. Gonzalez
By Robert J. Gonzalez (Sep 11, 2011)

I defy you to show once instance where the windbag spouted hate.

You can't.

0 upvotes
zapatista
By zapatista (Sep 12, 2011)

You only have to go through one commercial break to not encounter hate from him. I will admit though it has been several years since I listened to the asshat.

2 upvotes
Wally Brooks
By Wally Brooks (Sep 10, 2011)

Your Tripod will get you in trouble. You have the right to photograph however you do not have the right to block the sidewalk without a permit. This is considered blocking the sidewalk and interfering with access and egress by the public. This is covered by zoning laws and is constitutional. Attaching a camera on gorilla pod to a structure also requires permission and or a permit. Keep this in mind when in public. But what about..... there are no exceptions and a permit is required. Shoot without a tripod to avoid the issue and yes it interferes with your creative vision.

0 upvotes
flumpkin
By flumpkin (Sep 11, 2011)

What is your justification for saying that there are no exceptions to your claim that the use of a tripod automatically and necessarily constitutes a restriction of access and egress? If you know of any legal opinions to that effect, I would definitely have a genuine interest in reading them. Short of some prevailing legal doctrine on point, though, it's hard for me to imagine such an absolute scenario especially considering that these situations would be governed by state law. And it's pretty rare for all 50 states to agree on anything. Hopefully you take no offense to my skepticism, but if this is true, I would love to take a closer look.

0 upvotes
Robert J. Gonzalez
By Robert J. Gonzalez (Sep 11, 2011)

Using a tripod doesn't block the sidewalk.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Sep 12, 2011)

@Robert, read the entire post, "blocking" in this case legally means "interference," in other words you are reducing the design capacity of the sidewalk significantly. Tripods have a very large 2D and 3D footprint, and anyone with intelligence maintains a safe distance because they know what will happen if they trip over it. They go down, the expensive equipment goes down, nobody happy... This puts tripods in a similar position as cafe tables or sandwich boards that businesses put out on the sidewalk, there needs to be a permit because it is most definitely in the way, in the same way that blocking a lane of car traffic would be a problem.

0 upvotes
Jim in AZ
By Jim in AZ (Sep 10, 2011)

The ACLU won't tell you is many who follow police around are attempting to put them in some false light or make big bucks when cops encounter some bad guy who won't go peacefully by painting it as police brutality in the press. Their First Amendment claim is also weak sauce:

http://www.federalistblog.us/2008/10/freedom_of_speech_and_of_the_press/

2 upvotes
mjbauer
By mjbauer (Sep 10, 2011)

Many? Can you be precise?

Also, since police are public servants they really should not worry about their actions being photographed as they will not be violating any laws.

If a photographer interferes with law enforcement in some way (or any citizen or journalist interferes ) then there is a problem

5 upvotes
Jim in AZ
By Jim in AZ (Sep 10, 2011)

Never heard of copwatch or blue brigades?

I don't know, I would be uneasy about whackos following me around and filming me for evidence of wrong doing even if I was delivering milk.

2 upvotes
cplunk
By cplunk (Sep 10, 2011)

Perhaps you could explain how any of there people ever "make big bucks"?

I have seen the media circuses created by them locally, and no mention of them getting anything out of it, not even much direct attention. Except for one individual who apparently was employed (or some freelance contract) with a local TV station, when they discovered he was using there gear to film the police, and gave it to a different station (apparently they choose not to air it) fired the guy.

I fail to see how anyone following the police with a camera has any personal gain whatsoever. They believe in what they are doing to improve society, you may disagree, but you've accused them of being in it for personal gain, and I fail to see any way that could be any valid argument against them.

1 upvote
Darby
By Darby (Sep 10, 2011)

I was a cop for 35 years. I've supported the ACLU for decades. Unfortunately, positions of authority can and do attract folks that like to operate outside the 'rules'. Sadly, the 'system' does not like to bare its' mistakes. That's why advocates are needed.

10 upvotes
Pearsona
By Pearsona (Sep 10, 2011)

One reality is that many see a photograph as truth. A camera with an ultra wide angle lens is capable of giving you a 180 degree angle of view of an instant in time. Even a video is only giving you part of the context, of a specific event. Unless you were there... you are being sold the photographer's interpretation of a small part of a given event, i.e. take a protest where you want to show one side more heated than the other, just keep clicking until you get the shot where your side is passive, and the other is screaming. Or how about getting a shot of a public figure in a dumb look... just hold the shutter down, you will get that dopey look, guaranteed. Then when someone picks up the paper, they will say to themselves, "I always knew that guy was an idiot". Don't even get started with what you can do to bend this further with a little P'shop'n'.

1 upvote
clear glass
By clear glass (Sep 10, 2011)

Many of the attempts to restrict the legal freedom of photographers are probably also rooted in the general perception that a camera is not an artist's tool but a mechanical device for gathering information; in the age of point and shoot, it may be largely true. Art in general can also be condemned as obscene, distasteful, exploitative,disgusting, blasphemous, libelous, etc. but it's claim to come from the artist's imagination, creativity and emotions is much stronger because it need not be representational; it is hard to see it as nothing but a representation of reality. Objections can be made to art in general but they usually concern the work as an emanation of the artist's mind.

1 upvote
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

Very true. Even 20 years ago a photographer (with an SLR or bigger camera) was admired and respected. Now they are common place and the fear of things being plastered over the internet are in the backs of people's minds. Before the modern usage of the internet, most photographs were seen by only the photographer and his/her family and friends. Now they can be see by anyone in the world within minutes of being captured.

0 upvotes
clear glass
By clear glass (Sep 10, 2011)

Dogs and gorillas react to a staring eye as a threat; the lens doesn't blink (well, maybe the shutter does); could this be part of it, along with well-publicized fears of terrorists, perverts, robbers, public humiliation, and sexual fixation? Is the paranoia of parents, police, and people in power a reaction to increased feelings of vulneranbility to police, homeland security,
social workers who can take children from their parents with no reasonable cause (i.e., a couple patting their naked infant's bottom)? Oh for the days when people hardly knew what a camera was, and laughed when Erich Solomon or Cartier Bresson took a picture of them. A lot of people in media, politics, and law have a profitable interest in spreading fear. Do we live in the age we deserve and helped create?

0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Sep 10, 2011)

I always hear bad things about the ACLU, how they sue for public posting of the 10 commandments etc, but on this count I agree with them 100%.

The attitudes of people nowadays are ridiculous. Once I was photographing ducks at the lake. A hysterical woman yelled "don't take photos of my kids you pervert." My reply: don't worry, I only photograph things which look good (meaning: my, your kid is UGLY), ha ha.

Another: last year we were at a garage sale. A young girl, 13 or so, took a liking to my 1 year old son & picked him up. I took a photo of this, later the mother came by (she was a FRIEND of the one having the sell but not the home owner) and asked me to delete the photo, "I don't know you." My reply: "well, I don't know you and yet I didn't have a cow when your girl picked up my child without my permission. I just saw it as something sweet & innocent, a point of view which you could learn from, frankly."

6 upvotes
BHPhotog
By BHPhotog (Sep 12, 2011)

larrytusaz et al, you are confusing legal and ethical behavior.Photographing people without their permission is unethical.

The issue is not your (one's) right to photograph, but the subject's right to be free from intrusive behavior. Whether or not the photograph "feels" the same way about that intrusion is irrelevant since the photographer's intent is unknown and unknowable to the subject at the time of the behavior. Therefore, the photographer's intent to do/not do harm, or belief that harm was/was not done, is irrelevant beside the subject's perception of harm done.

I've raised this issue in the past, and will continue to do so when appropriate, knowing I'll get flamed by street photographers the world over. So be it, because the issue becomes more relevant each day as the technology spreads and privacy becomes increasingly at risk.

0 upvotes
xtoph
By xtoph (Sep 16, 2011)

@bhphotog--you're right that there's a difference between what is legal and what is ethical, but you are wrong to conclude that the feelings of the person photographed always trump the feelings or intent of the photographer. There is no ethical imperative to never hurt anyone's feelings; people have an ethical responsibility for their own feelings. If their feeling of injury is /justified/, then you have a case, but not otherwise. If you think about it, by your argument it doesn't even matter if the photograapher takes a photo; lots of people are made uncomfortable by simply seeing a person with a camers, ergo carrying a camera in public is unethical.

The fact is that we all have a shared interest in public space; being visible is an inherent consequence of being in public. It isn't enough to just feel uncomfortable; there has to be actual harm involved, not imaginary harm.

The ethics of sp is more subtle than you think. And people in general are more resilient, too.

2 upvotes
BHPhotog
By BHPhotog (Oct 9, 2011)

xtoph, first of all, call me "mistaken" or even "ignorant," but you're a toke over the line saying I'm "wrong." You have no way of judging that.

Secondly, of course I have an ethical responsibility to never injure another person. That's at the heart of ethics, the description and application of just behavior.

Third, ethics describes behavior not feelings, so your comments about the subject "having an ethical responsibility for for their own feelings" is not germane to that point.

And are you really suggesting that the photographer gets to sit in judgement and decide if the aggrieved subject is "justified" in his/her perception of that behavior was intrusive, rude, offensive or any of dozens of other quite-reasonable human reactions to the photographer's behavior?

My position stands: taking a person's photograph without their permission is unethical.

0 upvotes
Kenster
By Kenster (Sep 9, 2011)

Sure, it's our constitutional rights to photograph such and such but also has to remember in good ol USA, how much justice can you afford? If you get arrested or detained, do you have $10,000 to pay for a criminal lawyer's retainer fee? Talk is cheap until you talk to a lawyer. Since most of us don't photograph for living, it's better to put your tail between the legs and jump through the loops~

2 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (Sep 10, 2011)

You obviously have no idea about the law. Photography is not a criminal act, so you can't be charged with such. You don't need a lawyer to defend you.
It's actually the opposite. People who have been detained or arrested by police for taking photos in the public have cashed in after they sued for illegal arrest.

3 upvotes
Kenster
By Kenster (Sep 10, 2011)

"Cashed in after they sued for illegal arrest"

In which court? Show me the case #

0 upvotes
Malcolm L
By Malcolm L (Sep 10, 2011)

This happened in Houston several years ago. Two brothers photographed cops from their own property as the cops beat a suspect. They were arrested and prosecuted. They got off, sued Houston and won a substantial sum - several hundred thousand dollars.

2 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

"You obviously have no idea about the law. Photography is not a criminal act, so you can't be charged with such. You don't need a lawyer to defend you.
It's actually the opposite. People who have been detained or arrested by police for taking photos in the public have cashed in after they sued for illegal arrest."

And you obviously don't have any real experience with the law. Police can arrest you on the flimsiest excuse. And then it's up to you to defend yourself. Yes, the constitution says you're innocent until proven guilty, but show up for court without a lawyer and your odds of being found guilty are pretty good.

And yes, you might be able to sue for the violation of your rights, but you need a lawyer to do that, too.

3 upvotes
Robert J. Gonzalez
By Robert J. Gonzalez (Sep 11, 2011)

And because of cowards like you, the rest of us find it harder to defend our rights.

Stay home with the drapes closed, would you please?

0 upvotes
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

So the words "photograph" and "photographer" are actually in the U.S. constitution? Really? Please point out the passage that they are included as constitutional rights.

0 upvotes
NormSchultze
By NormSchultze (Sep 9, 2011)

Hey Officer Krupkey, Krup You !

Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story

1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Sep 9, 2011)

Someone's looking for a year in the pen.

2 upvotes
Corry Lee Smith
By Corry Lee Smith (Sep 9, 2011)

I knew this would be a mostly content-free discussion. Conservative Americans are trained and conditioned to fly into rage at the sight of those letters. It's almost Pavlovian.

9 upvotes
OnTheWeb
By OnTheWeb (Sep 9, 2011)

ACLU? American criminal liberal unit?

In any event, I'm looking forward to all the tall tales waiting to be unleashed in this thread.

2 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 9, 2011)

I'm not understanding why you're using this article as a platform for political baiting. It would be more productive to discuss the content of the guide instead of the organization that published it.

12 upvotes
Jim
By Jim (Sep 9, 2011)

So if someone dislikes the ACLU, they're automatically a facist, a John Bircher or a Nazi? Get a grip. You're way too quick on the name calling trigger and your remarks represent exactly why so many hate the ACLU. Time for you to come up for air.

4 upvotes
Glenn Runyan
By Glenn Runyan (Sep 10, 2011)

I came up for air 50 years ago when my college application included a loyalty oath because I was a member of the ACLU.

4 upvotes
Pearsona
By Pearsona (Sep 10, 2011)

Someone who criticizes the ACLU is a Nazi? Where does one go from here? No subtlety in that. Is banishing someone to Nazi Germany a form of repression, suppression, or something else? In other words free speech is good with me as long as you say something I agree with.

2 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

Interesting timing, Mr. "tall tales." I was hassled by the private security cops at a local shopping center just this morning. Taking photos on private property, but in a public location accessible to all. They told me I could take photos only of the American Flag and the fountain, nothing else. I pushed back, referring to court decisions that photography is considering "speech" under the first amendment, and they couldn't prevent me from taking photos in a publicly accessible space. They caved, and said I could fill out a "photography permit" request and then be allowed to take pictures.

But there first approach wasn't to ask me to fill out a permit request, it was to tell me to stop or leave. And believe me, I don't look like a terrorist.

1 upvote
OnTheWeb
By OnTheWeb (Sep 13, 2011)

Someone explain to me how the residents of the State of Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment to prevent Sharia law (ie. non-USA law) from being imposed, with over 70% of the Oklahoma voters agreeing (also known as a tidal wave mandate), and then the ACLU was able to get a judge to bar the law? 20 other States are in the process of passing similar blockades against Sharia, which is not just a religion but also a set of laws in conflict with those of the United States.

0 upvotes
Brad Ross
By Brad Ross (Sep 9, 2011)

I was in a public town park and came upon a little league game. I thought it would be a good opportunity to try and catch some images of a ball caught in mid air. A parent asked if I was the official photographer and I said no the pictures were for me. A few minutes later a father/coach came over and ask me to not take any pictures of the children. The parents did not give me permission. He said that I could take pictures of any tree or flower in the park but not children. I was take aback and shocked and embarrassed. I said okay, and turned around and left. I guess I should have asked permission or introduced myself ahead of time but the game was already in progress

1 upvote
sean000
By sean000 (Sep 9, 2011)

Since the game was in a public park you could have informed the father of your rights, but I think you did the right thing by leaving. There is an unfortunate paranoia and mob mentality among some parents these days, and unless you're the confrontational type I am all for respecting their wishes. Unless their children happen to be playing in a scene I am trying to photograph and I can't photograph around them. Then I might explain what I am trying to photograph and suggest that they avoid being in my shot if they want to. I'm a father as well so I sort of understand, but I still think people like that are over the top paranoid. I would not give a hoot if you wanted to photograph my daughter playing in a little league game. I would assume you were trying to photograph aspects of the game and not specifically my daughter. If she was playing by herself somewhere and you were photographing her I might find that a bit creepy, but a ball game? I just don't understand that degree of paranoia.

1 upvote
Thomas22
By Thomas22 (Sep 9, 2011)

Personally, I believe that you did the right thing by quitting. While you may have the legal right to have taken those pictures, with the way that parents get paranoid about such things, it was a courtesy to respect the coach's wish that you not take pictures of the children.

In most instances, respecting the feelings and wishes of others is a good thing.

0 upvotes
Brad Ross
By Brad Ross (Sep 9, 2011)

sean and thomas I agree, the irony, is, I work with children 40 hours a week in a brain injury program, in the same town, but of course, none of these chldren that I tried to photograph, have brain damage, so they did not recognize me,, ,, the dilemma,was "walking into a chld activity",, they did not know me,, I am not blaming them,, the point I thnk is,, if your are going to take pics, of kids,,,make sure they know where you are coming from,,,

0 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

"In most instances, respecting the feelings and wishes of others is a good thing."

But doesn't that cut both ways? What about the wishes and feeling of the photographer? People in a public park need to understand they have no expectation nor right of privacy.

3 upvotes
Robert J. Gonzalez
By Robert J. Gonzalez (Sep 11, 2011)

You don't need permission in a public place.

0 upvotes
BHPhotog
By BHPhotog (Oct 9, 2011)

Bob Meyer, yes it does "cut both ways," but this isn't about equally balanced rights, in fact it isn't about rights at all. It's about ethics, and that means, as Thomas22 says above "respecting the feelings and wishes of others is a good thing."

In fact, since you are the acting party and your behavior may be perceived as intrusive, and damaging, your right to take a photograph does not rise to as high a level as the subject's perception of harm and desire to not have the photograph taken.

0 upvotes
jwalker019
By jwalker019 (Sep 9, 2011)

Thanks for posting - the ACLU is the only truly independent organization out there dedicated to protecting the rights and liberties of all Americans. I'll download and keep this as a reference.

6 upvotes
BJN
By BJN (Sep 9, 2011)

Yeah, how dare an organization devoted to preserving civil liberties provide a document for photographers detailing their civil liberties?

8 upvotes
OnTheWeb
By OnTheWeb (Sep 9, 2011)

Now that there's funny, I don't care who you are... devoted to preserving civil liberties for liberals, would be more accurate.

2 upvotes
HerbalEd
By HerbalEd (Sep 9, 2011)

No, accurate is .... preserving civil liberties for every American ... including you.

6 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

But you see, OnTheWeb thinks only people who agree with him should have civil rights. So anytime the ACLU fights to protect the rights of someone who he doesn't agree with they must be liberal.

Fact it, though, they fight to protect the rights of everyone from gays and lesbians to the KKK an neo-Nazis. What people like OTW don't understand is that while they prevent conservatives from discriminating against people they don't like, they also fight to keep liberals from discriminating against people like him.

2 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 9, 2011)

Here's a tricky situation: As the ACLU guidelines clearly state you are free to shoot from public property but on private property the owner has the right to ask you to stop and/or leave. Sounds fair.

But what if it is unclear whether or not you're on public property? For example some publicly accessible roads are actually built upon private land. The public jurisdiction doesn't own the land but they have a legal easement to maintain a road across the private land. The public/private status of the land beneath the road can change every hundred feet or so and there is often no good way to recognize where the transitions are without consulting the property line maps (platt books) which are often secluded away on the city/county records office.

I was arrested once shooting from a publicly accessible road on these grounds. Though they released me shortly afterwards without charge it was really annoying to go through the detailed search while the best light of the day waned.

0 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (Sep 9, 2011)

The owner of property that you are on may make up their own rules, but these do not in any way become law. I can put up a sign in front of my house and say, photography prohibited, but if someone takes a photo, they are not breaking any laws. Neither has any private person nor company the right to make laws, nor enforce their rules other than asking you to leave.

Being in a private place does not make photography illegal, it might conflict with privacy of individuals. In general, anything that is in plain sight to the public is OK to photograph because there is no expectation of privacy (with a few exceptions). This includes malls or stores that are open to the public. They can make their rules but photography itself doesn't become illegal.

Another confusion is the right to your own likeness. If you are in the public, you have no legal right not to be photographed. That includes children as well. You only have certain right when it comes to commercial use of a photo of you.

2 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 10, 2011)

Octane - In my case the issue that the police pressed wasn't photography but rather trespassing. The officer who detained me said that I was observed shooting from a road that was partly on private land and that he could arrest me for trespassing. I guess it is OK to use the easement over private land for travel but if you stop and take photos then you're trespassing (?). The officer basically told me to scram and offered to follow me around and take me in to the station as soon as stopped on the (invisible) private part of the road.

I was tempted to visit the recorder's office the next day to study the platt maps to be on solid legal grounds then drop by the police station and give them the heads up so they didn't waste their or my time. But I was too lazy :-) Speaking of waste of time, a result of this incidentt allegedly registered me as a "person of interest" with Homeland Security.

0 upvotes
cplunk
By cplunk (Sep 10, 2011)

Having worked briefly with land surveyors and done some study of boundary law in the USA (working and living on the west coast) I cannot think where I have seen such a situation exist without having been clearly marked (i.e. private drive sign).

Even in the 60+ year old subdivision that I live in that is in an unincorporated county area (not in any city boundary) the county owns the street right of way.

In most instances I've encountered professionally in that field I would have suggested that the absolute reverse of what you suggest is true, and that most new streets would have a 30-40 foot right of way (often most), even though the street is only 20 feet wide. In most residential areas people just assume "there yard" goes up to the street, when in fact the city usually owns at least 5 feet of that as public property.

But, as I mentioned, boundary law and how right of ways were implemented can be very different from country to country or state to state, or even old vs new housing

0 upvotes
cplunk
By cplunk (Sep 10, 2011)

And this will vary from state to state, but in Washington state, trespassing actually requires that the area is fenced to prevent your entry.

Although arguing about this with a cop is kinda pointless.

0 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Sep 11, 2011)

cplunk -Yes, most roads are built on a wide public Right of Way. However I have intimate knowledge of some public roads that lie atop private land in California. And in one case the property line runs to the center line of the road itself! So northbound traffic is on property X and southbound is on property Y.

0 upvotes
RedFox88
By RedFox88 (Sep 15, 2011)

thielges, you got it wrong. If there is an easement for public right of way then you have a right to use that area as public space as if the right of way is in the name of the city. A private road is different.

0 upvotes
JayBratcher
By JayBratcher (Sep 9, 2011)

I'm surprised there is no mention of schools in there. Texas has some laws on this, although I don't fully understand them, or even know where they are documented. Part of it is in the education code, but I seem to recall a law being passed some time back that forbids video recording of student's faces without some type of permissions (either school or parental).

That said, there are just common sense rules that should be followed which they did not address directly, yet seem to indicate would be perfectly legal. For example, can perverts shoot photos in a public restroom without permission? Their guide seems to indicate that it's okay...

0 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (Sep 9, 2011)

Schools might have their own rules, but these rules do not become law. The government makes laws, no one else. I doubt there are actual laws against photography around or in schools. That would conflict with the first amendment.
Texas has a law that makes it illegal to take photos of people for sexual gratification without their consent. I think this is challenged because it clearly violates the first amendment. But I'm not up to date on that.

1 upvote
Thomas22
By Thomas22 (Sep 9, 2011)

Photography in a public restroom could hit other laws -- for example, if you're taking a picture of an unused urinal (don't ask my why you'd want to) in a public restroom, that might be legal. But if you're taking a picture of someone using that urinal, I suspect other laws (perhaps on voyeurism) might be violated by the photography.

And note that per the ACLU guide, that would only apply to a public restroom on public property -- the owners of a mall, restaurant, retail establishment, etc, would be well within their rights to toss out someone trying to take pictures in their restrooms.

The bottom line is that, of course, a brief guide can't cover every possible circurmstance.

0 upvotes
cplunk
By cplunk (Sep 10, 2011)

Even if the restroom was in a government building (public property) you would probably have very little luck trying to convince a judge that a person standing in front of the urinal there is in public.

Especially considering that the judge has to pee every day in a bathroom in a courthouse and probably doesn't want pictures of that published.

The same thing could probably be applied to schools. They may be government owned and used by the populace, but there access is controlled, and thus could be considered to not be public.

0 upvotes
howardroark
By howardroark (Sep 9, 2011)

Amazing what legal power certain questions or statements carry such as "am I free to go?" My father learned to never answer a question asked by a police officer without first knowing what the intent of the question is. Sometimes a legitimate answer is interpretted very literally and once you've answered any further detail that may prove you were behaving legally is almost beside the point. Whenever you are asked any question your answer can lead to the reasonable suspicion that will land you in jail unjustly.

5 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Sep 9, 2011)

Sage advice. People are generally quite unaware of their rights or how some law enforcement may manipulate dialogue. It's best to say as little as possible and minimize the encounter.

2 upvotes
Robert J. Gonzalez
By Robert J. Gonzalez (Sep 11, 2011)

You mean LIE?

Go ahead, you can say it.

We know.

0 upvotes
howardroark
By howardroark (Sep 12, 2011)

Don't be simple. The law is very specific at times and very vague at others, and I think that is evidenced plainly by the power of a very simple question. The law says an officer can ask you all the questions they want, but they never have to say that you are not obligated to answer until they've charged you with a crime and read you your rights. Volunteering information that seems innocient but can suddenly open you to suspicion that will lead to a whole slew of new problems is a product of the techniques being used by officials being inherintly deceptive. In other words, you don't know wha tyou're getting yourself into and they don't have to tell you so the ARE NOT going to tell you. The law only respect what HAS to be done, not what can or may be done.

0 upvotes
thanasaki
By thanasaki (Sep 9, 2011)

At Last ! Some serious and successful efforts for the right to take pictures in public places and put limits to the hysteria and suspicion to people who sipmply like photography.

1 upvote
easyshare
By easyshare (Sep 9, 2011)

I got 2 words for the ACLU.

0 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Sep 9, 2011)

Hopefully those are 'thank you', because without them you'd have less personal freedom than you do, today.

14 upvotes
ClickJohnClick
By ClickJohnClick (Sep 9, 2011)

Go on... don't be shy! What two words?

0 upvotes
radbag
By radbag (Sep 9, 2011)

yeah who wants to be civil or have liberties?

3 upvotes
Kurt Horsley
By Kurt Horsley (Sep 9, 2011)

"Thank you" is right...because without the ACLU there would be another two words..."truly screwed"!

6 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Sep 9, 2011)

One has four words, the other three, certainly.

Many want the police to be the law, not just enforce it. "Civil liberties" are a nasty hinderance. A gun and a badge should be enough. Erring on the side of caution, it should be OK to arrest or dispose of anyone who appears "suspicious."

Any home-boy cop knows that cameras are either for mug shots, graduating classes, sports heroes, weddings, or iconic postcard sites visited on trips. Otherwise, a guy with a camera can only be up to trouble, particularly if the pictures let attorneys or courts second-guess police reports. But there is also the belief that a camera helps target public places or people for harm. Guns, meanwhile, enjoy constutional protection and don't cause half the anxiety of a "deadly" DSLR.

easyshare's advice is to play it safe and take pictures only of squirrels. Be careful of birthday shots, lest someone think you are planning to use cakes as bombs.

3 upvotes
eenymac
By eenymac (Sep 9, 2011)

I used to think that the police in the UK were pushing the limits in the way they handled things with regards to photographers. That was until I started reading how some in the US were being treated when recording police officers. For example, arrested for illegal wiretapping (what the hell...).
In these ever more ridiculous days of constant surveillance by the state of our activities (security has nothing to do ith it), I often hear the old adage "if you are doing nothing wrong, then why object". Surely the same should apply to those tasked to protect us? They are, after all, supposed to be public servants, paid for from our taxes, NOT there to bend us to their will.
Filming or photographing the police in public where, we are told, we can have no reasonable expectation of privacy, surely acts as a deterrent to them acting unlawfully, as it does the rest of us?

7 upvotes
So_called_expert
By So_called_expert (Sep 9, 2011)

One of the most confusing things in USA is that the laws regarding this can vary substantially from state to state. Something perfectly legal in one state can get you arrested in another. For example, in at least one state it is required to have a warrant to do secret recording of any kind in any place. Technically even a nanny cam would be illegal.

0 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Sep 9, 2011)

Iowa's legistlature passed a law that makes it a misdemeanor to tak pictures of farm buildings, manure dumps, worker housing, child laborers, chemical disposals, or livestock without owner permission. A second offense is treated as a felony, akin to armed robbery, homicide, or terrorism. Farmers prefer to settle "red-tape stuff" peacefully with more "business-friendly" authorities, such as Sheriff Cousin Bob, Ag Dept agent (and Farm Bureau brother) Joe, or Labor Dept beer buddy "Sleepy."

0 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Sep 10, 2011)

Iowa's laws, if the contravene constitutional protections granted by federal courts, are unconstitutional. As long as you're standing on public property, you're free to photograph any of those items.

0 upvotes
maddogmd11
By maddogmd11 (Sep 9, 2011)

Interesting. While I don't expect the ACLU to state them there are reasonable limits also; which a photographer should understand. If I am in a public park and start photographing children, while totally legal, it is only reasonable to anticipate that some parent may take exception to having their kids photographed.

The same is true at some other public venues. If I decided I wanted to camp out and take lots of shots of a nuclear plant I would HOPE that someone would at least question why.

Lastly they do not address the commercial use of photographs of people which falls under different rules even if taken in a public place.

In short I think it is great for photographers to know what their Legal rights are. They should also understand that sometimes legitimate questions can and in fact should be asked and they should not be offended or surprised.

Maddog

2 upvotes
framboulatos
By framboulatos (Sep 9, 2011)

As we all know that is what pederasts do daily: they go to parks and take pictures of children. And when you photograph children you take their souls away so the parent should be justifiably upset. While taking pictures of adult women and men at a park is OK. Their parents do not need to be upset and take exception. It is after all the 91st commandment : Thou shalt not make images of your neighbors progeny. Any photographer who has the impulse to take a picture of anyone's kid is definitely suspect. I propose they be stoned.

It has also been conclusively shown to be true that before ALL terrorist attacks and especially those that have occurred on nuclear plants and military installations the terrorists went in with their Gitzo tripods and 2-3 D3X bodies and took 3x64GB worth of Sandisk Extreme shots of the locations. Then they printed them mural size at a boutique printing house and examined them in minute detail to decide where to strike while complaining a bit about noise.

15 upvotes
Steven Blackwood
By Steven Blackwood (Sep 9, 2011)

Ha hah hah hah hah hah! Well-said!

1 upvote
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (Sep 12, 2011)

hehe best post so far :)

0 upvotes
Total comments: 112