Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Ten Legal Commandments of Photography


Last week I visited the Art Institute of Charlotte in LakePointe Plaza, North Carolina. On leaving, I walked along the main road running parallel to the plaza, to catch a bus to the Amtrak Station. The photo below is a view of the Photography & Film Departments from the street across the lake. I used my Nokia e71 phone to take this. Then came the cowboy, the Plaza security guard!

With screeching brakes he flew out of his pick up truck and strut over to me and hollered, "Hey you!! Whater you doing thar?!!" He told me it was illegal for me to take any photograph of any building in Charlotte, and I can be arrested for terrorism!!! For all he knew I could be surveying the structural integrity to blow it up!! WTF? I may be new to this country but that's a load of bollocks!! However I apologized and told him I will delete it immediately. Pffft! It got me thinking anyway and I did some research. Much of what I read is summed up in another article I found on http://photojojo.com/content/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers... See below and let me know what you think. Also see http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm and download the PDF.

The Ten Legal Commandments of Photography

I. Anyone in a public place can take pictures of anything they want. Public places include parks, sidewalks, malls, etc. Malls? Yeah. Even though it’s technically private property, being open to the public makes it public space.

II. If you are on public property, you can take pictures of private property. If a building, for example, is visible from the sidewalk, it’s fair game.

III. If you are on private property and are asked not to take pictures, you are obligated to honor that request. This includes posted signs.

IV. Sensitive government buildings (military bases, nuclear facilities) can prohibit photography if it is deemed a threat to national security.

V. People can be photographed if they are in public (without their consent) unless they have secluded themselves and can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. Kids swimming in a fountain? Okay. Somebody entering their PIN at the ATM? Not okay.

VI. The following can almost always be photographed from public places, despite popular opinion:

* accident & fire scenes, criminal activities
* bridges & other infrastructure, transportation facilities (i.e. airports)
* industrial facilities, Superfund sites (an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located)
* public utilities, residential & commercial buildings
* children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
* UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Chuck Norris

VII. Although “security” is often given as the reason somebody doesn’t want you to take photos, it’s rarely valid. Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism, nor does it infringe on a company’s trade secrets.

VIII. If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor to you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)

IX. Private parties have very limited rights to detain you against your will, and can be subject to legal action if they harass you.

X. If someone tries to confiscate your camera and/or film, you don’t have to give it to them. If they take it by force or threaten you, they can be liable for things like theft and coercion. Even law enforcement officers need a court order.


What To Do If You’re Confronted

* Be respectful and polite. Use good judgment and don’t escalate the situation.
* If the person becomes combative or difficult, think about calling the police.
* Threats, detention, and taking your camera are all grounds for legal or civil actions on your part. Be sure to get the person’s name, employer, and what legal grounds they claim for their actions.
* If you don’t want to involve the authorities, go above the person’s head to their supervisor or their company’s public relations department.
* Call your local TV and radio stations and see if they want to do a story about your civil liberties.
* Put the story on the web yourself if need be.


More Resources

* We’ve condensed these facts a great deal. We recommend downloading The Photographer’s Right and keeping a couple of copies in your camera bag if you’re shooting somewhere you might expect trouble.
* Andrew Kantor has written a good article and a PDF summary of your rights, including some of the ins-and-outs of publishing your pictures.
* The Legal Handbook for Photographers is a great resource covering all aspects of photography and the law.

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5 comments:

Tee said...

Wow you've been having an interesting time in NC :D. Good info to know still

Prudence said...

Interesting experience....

Sharifa said...

Good for you! Ppl love make up rules and laws as it suits them...

wrerm said...

I've been longing to know that from forever...! Is there a source of reference?

Salfrico said...

Check out this lawyer's site and download the PDF. http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

and I got the article from this site
http://photojojo.com/content/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers