What and where and whom can you legally photograph?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by GRHazelton, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. GRHazelton

    GRHazelton Subscriber

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    I don't know where to post this so I'll leave that up to the moderators.

    Ethics and Philosophy might be the best place, given the post below about the woman arrested for videographing a police action from her own yard!

    There has been a lot of discussion here and in other fora about the legal rights of photographers to shoot in public. This link discusses the issues and has some videos of unfortunate photographers being harrassed by police.

    Photography Is Not A Crime

    At the end of the site there are a number of links to other sites dealing with the same topic.

    With the rise in police "activism" and increasing governmental infringements on rights we had thought to be inviolate, knowledge is indeed powerful.

    Be careful out there....
     
  2. Dshambli

    Dshambli Member

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    From what I understand, anytime someone doesn't have a "reasonable expectation to privacy" they can be photographed (certainly the case with a public official, in a public place, performing public duties).

    The NPPA has a code of ethics that addresses who you should ethically refrain from photographing. http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/ethics.html
     
  3. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    As more police officers find themselves on you tube and then out of a job you are going to see this more and more.
     
  4. mfratt

    mfratt Member

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    This is an astute point. This stuff has likely always gone on, but now that everyone has a camera right on their smartphone, its becoming more and more exposed. As such, the coppers are becoming more and more nervous of being caught on video - and more and more aggressive towards anyone with a camera, even if the intent is simply art or observation.

    What I'm looking for, but can't seem to find, is a trump card (at least from a legal standpoint) that I can drop on any security guard or cop who tells me I can't photograph here or whatever. Maybe some supreme court case law or something. Any help there?

    Then again, one quick way to piss off a cop is to start dropping case law on him, but too bad. I'm too calm-natured to piss off most of them enough to get a baton over the head.
     
  5. Dshambli

    Dshambli Member

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    That's a tough one, because I've seen too many instances where cops just make up the law. They'll tell you, "It's a felony in Florida to record someone without their permission." That's the jist of the wiretap law here, but the Supreme Court in Katz v. United States said that those sorts of things only apply if one has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (their words). So you could use those words, and if they say they feel that they have a reasonable expectation to privacy, the real test is whether society would generally accept it. As I've said, a public official performing public duties in public wouldn't generally be regarded as having any expectation of privacy. Because there are bad cops who give good ones a bad name, they will still probably arrest you since they won't suffer any consequences. If it's any consolation though, I haven't seen one case yet where the accused party was convicted. A judge in a Maryland case said, "Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation."

    By the way, I'm not a lawyer or anything, so I'm just giving an opinion.
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Just like American Football. It only draws a flag if you get caught. :wink:
     
  7. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    My understanding of the law is that on public property or your own property, or property on which you have consent of the owner, you can photograph anything that you can see with the naked eye. If a person is standing naked in their window and can easily be seen from the street without he aid of binoculars, telescopes, long lenses, etc, then they are able to be photographed and have little say about it. However if they are in their homes, away from the window and are photographed by someone with a long lens, then they have had a reasonable expectation of privacy and such photography is not permissible.

    Now the other issue becomes legal usage of their image. An accredited photo journalist can pretty much use for publication whatever they shoot, unless of course it's the long lens into someone's bedroom thing, however if they are shooting a covert drug deal or some other law breaking act, they probably would be exempt as long as the imagery was in the interest of the public. But even if you photograph someone on the street, photo journalist or not, you can not use that image for commercial purposes without the written consent of the subject.

    It is perfectly legal to photograph the police in action as long as you are not hindering the performance of their duty. And standing on your lawn and photographing a bust is not hindering them as much as the officer might complain. Now in some towns and cities, setting up a tripod and blocking the street may be illegal and require a permit before doing so.

    As for photographing government buildings, you are free to photograph the exterior of ANY government building from a public street or private property with it's owner's consent, so long as the building has not been listed and posted as top secret. And further, ANY building or structure can also be photographed from public property. An example, if someone wants to photograph your house from the street, you have no right to stop them.
     
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  8. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I think it would be foolish to base any of your actions on legal opinions given by people on internet forums, I suggest you get a good recently published book about photography and the law that applies to the USA.
     
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  9. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    POLICE and CAMERAS:

    I recently wrote a long, long letter posted in the 'Ethics' section of apug.org, entitled "Thou Shalt Not Photograph VA Hospitals", regarding my experiences merely LOOKING at a used camera to purchase at the VA Hospital in Philadelphia and can state, unequivocally, that those who claim that it is permissible to photograph in a public place are merely quoting statutory law.

    I say 'merely' because statutory law seems to mean less and less as police are PERMITTED to make up their own laws in defense of their royal egos. Traditionally, police have apprised themselves of the 'loyalty factor' in that they could depend upon other police officers to 'cover' (ie, lie, blatantly) for their actions. NOW, however, police are scared like crazy because of both the new ease to photograph and the probability that the camera just might not provide that easy lie and deception that the police have become used to having delivered to their collective doorstep. Police, like spoiled brats that suddenly wake up to the real world and its self-discipline, are becoming deprived of their easy way out. This realization started with DNA testing about a dozen years ago when both police and DAs fought mightily against its use. They do not like being left out of the 'legislative' process and cannot do anything about it but continually harass people who are NOT in a position to fight back.

    Surely there are police and law enforcement personnel reading this who will take convenient issue with my outlay here. Speak your speak and also remember to cover all the loose ends of your 'take' on this so that those of us who actually think, rather than react, can also be fooled by your false claims. Some of us just might NOT be fooled because we are so used to your 'excuses'. - David Lyga.
     
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  10. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    Unfortunately if you argue with a Police officer or security person you risk having things happen. If they're wrong you may be able to get some relief afterward but the damage is already done.

    Getting back to the original question, here I believe it is true that you can photograph anything or anyone from public or your own property with a normal or wide angle lens, telephoto may be seen as a violation of privacy. However, you can only personally use photographs of people and other property taken without permission; for commercial use, a release is required. Artistic use, display in a gallery or so on, usually falls under the personal use category but if you make and sell 500 prints of your art then it is likely commercial use. I am not a lawyer but this seems reasonable to me.
     
  11. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Any accreditation a journalist might have does not alter the law at all. An accredited journalist has to live and work by the same laws as anyone else.


    Steve.
     
  12. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    In general even if you know your legal rights it's difficult to insist on them when two 225 lb cops have your arms twisted up your back, in these cases " might is right", you may be able to get legal redress later if the police have broken the law, but that is after the event.
     
  13. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    Sure about that? I thought that news photos of public interest could be used without permission by accredited journalists, unlike the rest of us. You don't need the president/prime minister's permission to photograph him making a speech for example. Of course tabloids will claim that celebrities are in the public interest and thus they can make money off of pictures of them with sweatpants and dishevelled hair.
     
  14. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Albeit British, benjiboy seems to be 'amongst the few' who know the REAL laws in the 'great' USA.

    What a time to celebrate this 'might is right' on the 4th of July! - David Lyga
     
  15. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    It's the newspaper which uses the picture. It doesn't matter who takes it.

    No title, accreditation or alleged celebrity status changes the law for anyone.


    Steve.
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I admit I know very little about the law, but I do have had a lot of experience of life.
     
  17. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    That's of course quite right.

    "Accreditation" is something that gives access to some photographers to a place where they would otherwise legitimately not be admitted (imagine a private sport pitch, or a tribunal hall).

    But the admissible use of an image is dictated by the law regardless of accreditation, the law is the same for everybody. If you take pictures of riots in the road, you sell them and they are used with the same set of rules exactly as if you were an accredited or licensed photojournalist.
     
  18. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    Steve, you seemed to miss out on the rest of what I wrote;

    "An accredited photo journalist can pretty much use for publication whatever they shoot, unless of course it's the long lens into someone's bedroom thing, however if they are shooting a covert drug deal or some other law breaking act, they probably would be exempt as long as the imagery was in the interest of the public. But even if you photograph someone on the street, photo journalist or not, you can not use that image for commercial purposes without the written consent of the subject."

    I didn't give PJ's a free pass, they have restrictions. Maybe I was not clear when I wrote about the "covert drug deal", it being on private property with the participants having an expectation of privacy. Photographing of which is something that a non photojournalist could face a law suit over. As is the case with James O'Keefe, the guy that does the video stings. He is currently being sued by one of the Acorn employees for $75,000 for violating the invasion of privacy act. An accredited journalist would most likely not face such a situation because that information is a "legitimate concern for the public". Also courts have been siding with the Press for the last 15 years on these issues.
     
  19. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Early Riser, if I can interpret Steve thinking, and mine, in those case where a "legitimate concern for the public" prevails in respect to the legitimate expectation of privacy by one person, it makes no difference whether the picture was taken by an accredited photo journalist or by uncle George. Either the person has a legitimate right to privacy - regardless of the status of the photographer taking the picture - or there is some legitimate interest of the public for the story to be known, again regardless of the status of the photographer.

    The judge will weight the two rights, in the light of existing laws, regardless of the photographer's professional status.
     
  20. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Interpreted correctly!


    Steve.
     
  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    We know all about it in Britain, my country built an empire in the 18th and 19th century on the might is right principal :D
     
  22. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Some parks may not let you use a a tripod.

    Jeff
     
  23. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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