More 'can't photograph government buildings'
These stories have been posted before, but when this hit the Washington Post this morning, I thought it needed some discussion:
It seems our government is increasingly scared of us. What will be next?
What about phone cams?
There was a letter to the editor of Pop. Photo I think a few months back where the writer said that he saw where Janet Napalianto (however you spell it) told a guy that asked how we could prevent terrorist attacks, that he should be on the look out for people taking pictures of buildings. The funny thing is that with all the cell phones with cameras built in them, there are at any one time hundreds of cameras in front of a government building. Yet if I take my camera and put it on a tripod, standing on a sidewalk (or somewhere where I'm not interfering with traffic flow) I will be assumed to be taking pictures for the terrrorists. Whether using a digital or film camera, I must leave the area and either develop film or transfere it to my computer. A person with a cell phone can immediately transfere that picture to anyone in the world. Or, to put it another way, someone can stand a half mile away and take a picture with a 500mm lense, but the guy that uses a 50mm lense in front of the building is probably a crimminal. It doesn't show much intelligence for our intelligence agencies to hassle photographers. Ric.
In Sept 2009 this statement was released...now the feds say it is not illegal to photograph federal buildings...
September 2nd, 2009 Tags: Washington DC
By Carlos Miller
"It took four months but the United States Department of Transportation finally responded to a query from the ACLU asking it to clarify its policy on the act of photographing its buildings.
"Turns out, there is no such policy forbidding the photography of DOT buildings in Washington DC.
"The response from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation acted as if it were only an isolated incident in which a security guard was misinformed about the policies regarding photography. It offered an apology for that particular security guard.
"But the truth is, there has been a pattern over several years of DOT security guards forbidding photographers from taking pictures of its buildings.
"Much of it has been documented by photographer Erin McCann, who provided Photography is Not a Crime with the response from the US DOT, which also included a 2004 “special security bulletin” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding the photography of federal buildings.
"The bulletin makes it clear that there are no restrictions of taking pictures of federal buildings from the outside, especially if you are not standing on federal property.
"The bulletin also states that it is permissible to photograph “building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors or auditoriums for news purposes.”
"This, of course, brings up the old debate about who is a journalist and who is not a journalist or what is newsworthy and what is not newsworthy.
"As there is no federal law defining what makes a journalist, so this pretty much makes it acceptable for anybody to take pictures of these areas.
"The bulletin also states that it is permissible to take pictures inside federal buildings as long as permission is obtained; verbal permission for non-commercial photography and written permission for commercial photography.
"The bulletin also encourages security guards to harass approach photographers and conduct 'field interviews' to determine that they are plotting to blow up the building with their cameras."
Not only in Washington!
I was in Boston a couple of years ago - as I was walking near the fairly new Moakley Federal Courthouse, a guard came over to me and told me that I could not take any photos of the outside of the building. I assured him that I would not, and proceeded to take pictures of a nearby pedestrian bridge. A little while later, I was approached by another guard and was again told that I couldn't take any pictures of this architectural award winning building. When I got back home I did a Google Earth search and of course was able to see the satellite photo of the building. I then searched for other photos on-line and was able to find lots of them - with several articles extolling the beauty of the building.
Does this make sense to anyone? As many have pointed out in the past, is a terrorist going to stand there with his very obvious camera on a tripod taking pictures of his next target? Somehow I doubt it. Paranoia and a lack of reason have thrown common sense out the window.
Doesn't make any sense at all. And despite any evil intentions, even the would be terrorist has a right to take those pictures from a public place!
Originally Posted by KenR
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Not to mention you can put the name of any gov't building into google image search and get plenty of pics of it. I'll put on my tinfoil hat on and say that it probably has more to do with maintaining a general level of fear in the population. The more normal every day life is (freely taking pictures on the sidewalk for example) the harder it is for the government to dominate the people. No pictures of buildings, no pictures or video of police, report your neighbor if they look suspicious. The boogey man is coming for you! Oh, by the way we are going to pass some more laws to keep you safe. :o
All that, and the "security" people hired to watch most of these facilities were given a badge and a gun (or a stun gun) and given a rudimentary directive to just watch the building and report/stop anything "suspicious". This is not the cream of the crop in most cases (the cream of the crop is actually engaged in doing something more proactive). No one wants to get written up for letting the "big score" get away, thus the harassment for taking photos of something that has been photographed and the resulting images disseminated freely for decades.
Originally Posted by Sean
Critical thinking would dictate that if I'm standing at the main gate of Ft. Bragg snapping photos as military personnel pass in and out, that's one thing, and if I'm shooting an architecturally interesting federal courthouse, that's another--but we have a serious deficit of critical thinking skills among the general populace, which is a topic for another thread, probably on another forum. :rolleyes:
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Originally Posted by cfclark
A photo club I belong to got permission to shoot at a building that is trademarked and that doesn't usually let people shoot it from its property (legal as far as I know - it's their property). In an e-mail about the shoot, the vp of the club perpetuated the "can't shoot it because of homeland security" myth. I was so so ticked with him.
Fear in the population, or fear of the population.
Originally Posted by Sean
I suspect you and I have the same hat maker.
You can't trademark a building. There is a copyright on the design, but Article 17 of the US Code has a specific provision stating that one can photograph a completed building without violating copyright. Of course, you have to be standing somewhere where you have the authority to stand.
I've been challenged by cops when photographing in the middle of a Florida swamp.