Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Photographer's Right

A downloadable flyer explaining your rights when stopped or confronted for photography:
The Photographer’s Right is a downloadable guide that is loosely based on the Bust Card and the Know Your Rights pamphlet that used to be available on the ACLU website. It may be downloaded and printed out using Adobe Acrobat Reader. You may make copies and carry them your wallet, pocket, or camera bag to give you quick access to your rights and obligations concerning confrontations over photography. You may distribute the guide to others, provided that such distribution is not done for commercial gain and credit is given to the author.

The right to take photographs in the United States is being challenged more than ever. People are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. For the most part, attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.

Ironically, unrestricted photography by private citizens has played an integral role in protecting the freedom, security, and well-being of all Americans. Photography in the United States has an established history of contributing to improvements in civil rights, curbing abusive child labor practices, and providing important information to crime investigators. Photography has not contributed to a decline in public safety or economic vitality in the United States. When people think back on the acts of domestic terrorism that have occurred over the last twenty years, none have depended on or even involved photography. Restrictions on photography would not have prevented any of these acts. Furthermore, the increase in people carrying small digital and cell phone cameras has resulted in the prevention of crimes and the apprehension of criminals.

As the flyer states, there are not very many legal restrictions on what can be photographed when in public view. Most attempts at restricting photography are done by lower-level security and law enforcement officials acting way beyond their authority. Note that neither the Patriot Act nor the Homeland Security Act have any provisions that restrict photography. Similarly, some businesses have a history of abusing the rights of photographers under the guise of protecting their trade secrets. These claims are almost always meritless because entities are required to keep trade secrets from public view if they want to protect them.

Follow the link for more information. Download the flyer in PDF format here.

(HT Glenn Reynolds)


Ali Hasanain said...

On my way to Pakistan last year, at JFK's international terminal, a Muslim man created a disturbance that was misconceived as a security threat. A Muslim woman standing nearby photographed airport security using excessive force to restrain him. These airport personnel/policemen then turned their attention to her, confiscated her camera and threatened to arrest her.

Wish I'd had this flyer then...

Brian Hollar said...

I wish you had too...

Shawn said...

thanks man; cool post. almost makes me want to go out and get pestered for shooting. :)

one thing about that flyer, though...what is this "film" that he refers to?, I really need to stop hating police....that certainly doesn't make me do so any less. :/

thinking said...

The problem is that this country learned the wrong lessons from 9-11.

We had the wrong leadership, and the far right basically shaped and warped this country's value system.

We chose fear over reason and rationality, and many branded Muslims as the enemy.

We are still paying the price today, in so many ways, and this issue about photography is just one example.

It will take us a long time to recover, and the verdict of history will not be kind.

And speaking of Glenn Reynolds, why doesn't he speak out against this country's past use of torture, just as he does about this issue of photography?