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Photography and the Law

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posted on Jul, 1 2013 @ 09:44 PM
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Hello ATS!

I was just participating in another thread, and came to the realization that photography laws are greatly misunderstood around here.

This was, honestly, quite shocking to me, considering that a large part of exposing conspiracies in government and religion, as well as documenting supernatural phenomenon, can be aided by cameras.

I decided I would make a thread here, and do my best to enlighten you all as to what your legal rights as a citizen are when it comes to owning, using, and distributing pictures.

First off though, this thread will be strictly concerned with American photography laws. The law changes based on your country. Here are some links for Canadian Laws, UK laws, Australian laws, and New Zealand laws. If your country is not listed among those, then you'll need a brighter man than I to help you figure out what is, and is not legal concerning cameras in your country.

 


Onward.

First off, here are two very good links for purchasable and printable versions of the actual legal explanations concerning photography and American law:

The Legal Handbook for Photographers will tell you absolutely everything there is to know about photography and the law in America. If you have a camera, and are planning to use it for anything outside of family gatherings, or planned shoots in a secure location, I highly recommend attaining a copy of it.

Photographer's Rights outlines a majority of your rights in a small, printable version which you can keep in your camera bag, or pockets, etc.

Now then, after you read through all of the legal work, there are essentially 4 good rules of thumb to abide by when trying to figure out whether or not what you're doing is legal. They are:

01. Public and Private spaces

Public spaces, and all of their occupants, are completely open and fair game to photographers. Sidewalks, roads, beaches, parks, museums, even malls, are all considered public property. As such, your focus (the person or thing you're photographing) has no expectation of privacy when they use them. As long as you and your subject are both on public property, take the picture.

Private spaces and their occupants cannot be photographed unless you are on public property. Private spaces consist of areas like somebody's home, a military facility, or other government owned buildings. It is illegal for you to enter them unlawfully (trespassing, breaking and entering, etc), and also illegal for you to photograph their architecture of employees while on said private property.

 


02. Posted private property

First, any time that a sign is posted prohibiting photography, you are obligated to follow the signs command and not photograph that space. If you are on public property though, you may photograph what is in plain view.

Second, if you are approached by security/police/owners and told not to photograph a private space, you are obligated to obey them, and cease taking pictures in that instance. However, they are not allowed to confiscate your camera, your film, any of your possessions, or you yourself.

If they do so, you can seek legal recourse, such as claims of coercion, theft, and kidnapping, depending on the extent of what they do. For more information on the specifics, consult the manual, or a lawyer.

 


03. Subjects

Subjects standing on public property have no expectation of privacy. The following subjects may all be photographed without consent if both you, and they, are standing on public property:

Adults
Children
Strangers
Law enforcement
Government agents
Business employees
Dignitaries
Celebrities
Pets

There are, obviously, some exceptions to this rule. For instance:

First, anybody who establishes a credible private space cannot be photographed. A bathroom, a beach changing stall, or the ATM would constitute some of these locations. Do not take pictures of people when they are, for all intents and purposes, doing something which they should expect privacy.

Second, if the owner, or one of their employees, approaches you asking you not to do so. For areas like malls you can ask to see the documentation prohibiting photography. If they produce it, abide by it. If they cannot, ask to speak to the owner, and get clarification that it is, indeed, against the policies of the area. As a rule of thumb, I always request areas post said documentation afterward, to avoid further hassle with other photographers like myself.

 


04. Misinformed opinions

Plenty of people are unaware of photography laws, as such, photographing many of the following things is often believed to be a criminal act.

However, as photography is protected by the first amendment of the United States Constitution under freedom of expression and of the press, as long as you are standing on public property, and do not interfere with any proceedings, IE: don't get in the way of police, you may photograph any of the following:

Accidents
Fires
Criminal activities
Bridges
Airports
Buses
Airplanes
Trains
Industrial facilities
Superfund sites
Public utilities
Residential buildings
Commercial buildings
Law enforcement
Government employees
Elected officials
UFOs
Cryptids
Anomalous phenomenon

 


Final note

As much of the above is not common knowledge, there is a good chance that you will encounter resistance from government and elected officials should you try exercising your right as a photographer. Almost without fail you will be arrested for practicing what is your legal right. It is important for you to understand, should this happen, that you have not broken any law. If you are arrested, you can seek legal recourse.

For information on how to communicate with police, and how to properly handle getting arrested for exercising your rights as an American, you can consult groups like Cop Block and their associates.

For further information on your legal rights concerning photography and government officials, talk with your family lawyer.

 


Well ATS, that's all I've got. I hope this thread helps inform you a little bit more about the power you possess with your cameras, and the strength with which you may use them for the good of us all.

MODS, if you can think of a better forum than the Gray Area for this, please move it.


~ Wandering Scribe




posted on Jul, 1 2013 @ 10:08 PM
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As an amateur photographer I must say this is a wonderful thread!
I've done a lot of research about this topic and I'm glad to see your compilation of much of what I've seen.

I do have a couple of questions about the following though:


01. Public and Private spaces

Public spaces, and all of their occupants, are completely open and fair game to photographers. Sidewalks, roads, beaches, parks, museums, even malls, are all considered public property. As such, your focus (the person or thing you're photographing) has no expectation of privacy when they use them. As long as you and your subject are both on public property, take the picture.



Certain places like Malls and Museums can actually be considered private property rather than public property. Here in my local area there are two malls owned by a private corporation. While the buildings are open to public access, they're still considered "private property." It would appear that you're welcome to take pictures as you please, but if the property owner requests cessation of the activity you have to cooperate. That does't mean they can delete images or confiscate your gear, but it means they can ask you to stop and maybe even escort you from the premises. Have you found that to be the case in your research?

Also, it would seem that any subject in plain view of a photographer on public property is considered fair game as well, even if they are on private property. That's a little different than what your indicating, but it falls under the same sort of precedence as the plain view doctrine law enforcement relies on. i think it's wise to clear up the fact that I can take your picture if I'm standing on a public sidewalk and you're standing on a private lawn. I do believe there are ethical and legal concerns when it comes to peeping in windows and over walls though, but that's just from my understanding of things that I've looked in to. Again, have you found the same types of things in your research?



posted on Jul, 1 2013 @ 10:25 PM
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reply to post by Mapkar
 


Thanks for the reply!


Certain places like Malls and Museums can actually be considered private property rather than public property. Here in my local area there are two malls owned by a private corporation. While the buildings are open to public access, they're still considered "private property." It would appear that you're welcome to take pictures as you please, but if the property owner requests cessation of the activity you have to cooperate. That does't mean they can delete images or confiscate your gear, but it means they can ask you to stop and maybe even escort you from the premises. Have you found that to be the case in your research?


Definitely. I included this in both the second section outlining posted private property, and the third section, on subjects:


Second, if you are approached by security/police/owners and told not to photograph a private space, you are obligated to obey them, and cease taking pictures in that instance. However, they are not allowed to confiscate your camera, your film, any of your possessions, or you yourself.



Second, if the owner, or one of their employees, approaches you asking you not to do so. For areas like malls you can ask to see the documentation prohibiting photography. If they produce it, abide by it. If they cannot, ask to speak to the owner, and get clarification that it is, indeed, against the policies of the area. As a rule of thumb, I always request areas post said documentation afterward, to avoid further hassle with other photographers like myself.


The reason malls and museums count as public spaces in photography laws is because the people gathering there do not have expectations of privacy. But yes, by all means, if the owners approach you and request that you leave, you should. But no, they cannot confiscate your gear, or film, and as I pointed out, I always request that they post that photography is not allowed to help reduce further problems.


Also, it would seem that any subject in plain view of a photographer on public property is considered fair game as well, even if they are on private property. That's a little different than what your indicating, but it falls under the same sort of precedence as the plain view doctrine law enforcement relies on. i think it's wise to clear up the fact that I can take your picture if I'm standing on a public sidewalk and you're standing on a private lawn. I do believe there are ethical and legal concerns when it comes to peeping in windows and over walls though, but that's just from my understanding of things that I've looked in to. Again, have you found the same types of things in your research?


This one is admittedly a bit more tricky. You can photograph anything visible from public property, including inside of private installations. You cannot breach privacy though to achieve such views. So, no scaling walls, climbing fences, opening doors, or using a ladder to get to a second story window, ha ha. If you can see it from where you're standing on a sidewalk though, you can photograph it.

That is my understanding of those areas of the law.


~ Wandering Scribe



posted on Jul, 1 2013 @ 10:30 PM
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reply to post by Wandering Scribe
 


Wow, I totally read those and still, felt the need to ask! Whoops. Either way, glad to see you have the same conclusion as me and I wasn't seeing things differently than anyone else.

I definitely see what you were talking about now with the differentiation of public and private spaces based on the expectation of privacy. That's not initially how I saw it, but it does make sense as far as photography is concerned.

Thank you for the response, and thanks again for bringing these rights forward. I really believe the more people who see them and know them, the better it'll be!



posted on Jul, 1 2013 @ 11:44 PM
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Awesome thread, very informative. Thank you for taking the time to post.

I do have one question though Why would a government building be considered private? In my opinion places of government should be in the public domain considering the people are the ones actually funding these places.



posted on Jul, 1 2013 @ 11:52 PM
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reply to post by Privateinquotations
 


Usually it has to do with the military, and possible breeches of classified information. Your right to photograph something doesn't necessarily exclude you from treason, or national security. So, a government building can restrict you in the defense of the nation as a whole.

Occasionally, getting in touch with the building, or approaching an employee with questions concerning civilian/public photography may grant you access you didn't expect to earn too.

A handful of times my friend (a photography major) and I have gained access to closed down schools, abandoned railway stations, construction sites, and more just by asking if we were allowed. Often knowing you're there is enough to put those in charge at ease about what you're doing.

~ Wandering Scribe



posted on Jul, 2 2013 @ 01:33 AM
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Originally posted by Wandering Scribe
02. Posted private property

First, any time that a sign is posted prohibiting photography, you are obligated to follow the signs command and not photograph that space. If you are on public property though, you may photograph what is in plain view.


Little more detail. A publicly available place such as mall can have "no photography" policy. They may not have signs clearly up to indicate that thought. You are tresspassing if you refuse to leave the said area. While you leave you are free to shoot to your hearts content. No photography actually means that by doing photography you are subject to tresspassing. Tresspassing only becomes a violation if you refuse to leave.



posted on Jul, 2 2013 @ 03:27 AM
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Originally posted by Wandering Scribe
I was just participating in another thread, and came to the realization that photography laws are greatly misunderstood around here.

Interesting reading and collation of events in some links.

It's not just at ATS; it seems pretty much everywhere. Australia also varies a little in my experience state and in some instances even harder to manage than the USA. It's commented on in some of the articles, but even the police don't really seem to know in most places. I often feel the need to do a refresher whenever I am somewhere new.

Star and flags for interesting readings.



posted on Jul, 2 2013 @ 04:25 AM
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reply to post by PsykoOps
 


You always need to be clear, at least in your own mind, about what you're doing.

Photographing can amount to more than just trespassing, if you're doing more than just taking normal pictures. Taking pictures in "employee only" areas, or inside security booths, or such can definitely amount to more than just trespassing.

If all you're doing is honest picture-taking though, the worst they can do is ask you to leave, to which you should ask for the law, statute, or company policy prohibiting photography. If they can present it, then pack up and go.

A lot of the time, in my experience, the people who've asked me to leave don't actually have a problem with photography themselves, and are simply just "following orders" because they need the job. There's no reason to make their life any more unnecessarily difficult.

~ Wandering Scribe



posted on Jul, 2 2013 @ 04:31 AM
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reply to post by Pinke
 


Photography is greatly misunderstood within the legal system, the whole world over.

A lot of that stems from fear of accountability, I think. And the inability to control a camera held by someone else.

Cameras are perfectly OK... when they show you what you want to see. Take away that bias though, and present video footage filmed for transparency, and suddenly all those people who love to have their cameras trained on you, absolutely despise having your cameras trained on them.

Its something I, as a photographer, hope I am in some small way changing in the perspective of the world.

~ Wandering Scribe



posted on Jul, 2 2013 @ 08:58 AM
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Thanks for the great info........

What are your thoughts on the legalities of RC/Drone photography? What are the lines that can/cannot be crossed?



posted on Jul, 2 2013 @ 02:24 PM
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reply to post by CastleMadeOfSand
 


In a perfect world, the same laws which apply to civilian photography should apply to military photography as well; the law should be maintained across all of America's citizens, whether they're civilian, military, or law enforcement.

If you're in a public place, having not secluded yourself somewhere for obvious privacy, and the drone doesn't have to breach privacy laws to photograph you, then sure, let it. You shouldn't have anything to hide when you're right smack-dab in the middle of an open area.

The idea of spy-drones though, and things like the whole NSA scandal... those are wrong. Invading privacy, even in the name of security, is wrong. How can we, as citizens, truly be secure, if our own privacy can be breached without our knowledge?

The law is the law, that which is illegal for the lowest citizen, is illegal for the highest.

Too bad we don't live in a perfect world.

~ Wandering Scribe



posted on Jul, 3 2013 @ 10:35 AM
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S&F if I ever get in a bind this will be helpful. Thanks!





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