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LAW: Shooting in Public

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by dking99, Aug 26, 2008.

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  1. dking99


    Aug 19, 2008
    Rockville, MD
    I have often wondered where I could fine the "offcial" law that states my rights as a US citizen to take pictures freely in public.

    Can I take pictures of a minor at a childeren's athletic event legally? Can I photgraph the police writing a speeding ticket, arresting someone? Is there any circumstance when I can be forced to shut the camera down - remember, I am speaking specifically about public shooting. I understand that being in the way of other law enforcement is a no-no, but where should I draw the line?

    Is there a website that lists my rights as a photographer in public?
  2. JusPlainCrayzee

    JusPlainCrayzee Administrator Administrator

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  3. dking99


    Aug 19, 2008
    Rockville, MD
    Excellent information...

    I occasionaly take pictures at highschool sporting events and this is good information to have. Many people have politly asked me if it was okay to shoot these kids even though they are considered minors. Now I know.

    I originally asked this question because if you are out in public and come across a situation that is worthy of recording, we need to know our rights. Nobody plans to run into a case of misconduct, and when they do, most dont know their rights and either refrain from taking the shots or give in to the officer who confiscates the "evidence." As mentioned in one of the links, if there is no arrest made, authorities have no right to confiscate film/memory cards.

    I also found interesting the fact that we can take pictures of buildings and bridges without being harmed either. This is how it should be...It would be nice if everyone knew they had this right. My thinking is that most dont realize it is there.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  4. Just so that anyone that reads this, this is not a political reply, but what is happening not only in the US but all over the world.


    The official law that states your right as a US Citizen to take pictures is called The First Amendment.
    Something that we are slowly losing. To blame is the 9/11 incident, everything gets lumped on that.
    As crazee stated, you can use that other post I made about rights, you may also want to check your local state laws,
    but your best bet would be to inquire within your states ACLU. Not everyone likes them, but when it comes to protecting
    yourself, you have to use all the weapons given to you.

    Also check Street photography

    I hope this helps you in your quest for street shooting.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008
  5. I would respectfully submit that the 1st Amendment has nothing to do with your rights to take pictures of other people's kids, nor does reluctance to allow such activity have anything to do with 9/11.
  6. For your first part...

    You have a legal right to take photos. This is a First Amendment right, where photography is considered a form of "speech."

    Adopted in 1791, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights) states that:

    "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech ..."

    Photographing kids doesn't make a person a pedophile. You're photographing people on the street, which have no right to privacy, since it is a public venue.

    For your 2nd part...

    So all the attacks on photographers are just people being totally stupid and taking the law into their own hands....
    oh wait, didn't homeland security tell the police force to be on the lookout for photographers AFTER the 9/11 attacks? Or was it just my imagination playing tricks on me?

    You don't just take one thing out of what is being talked about to say that xxxx has nothing to do with the 1st amendment or that xxxx has nothing to do with 9/11....
  7. iLLMaCK

    iLLMaCK Guest

    So what's the deal with taking sports pictures?
    Any legal issues against doing it?
  8. midocr


    Mar 28, 2008
    OH - IO
    I've been adopted as the un-official, official photographer for my daughter's HS tennis team. I've been shooting at every match this year. I've been approached twice in the last week asking what I was doing and if I was a parent. I politely responded that yes, I was a parent of one of the girls and I was simply taking pics for all the girls, their parents and the school yearbook. This seemed to satisfy them because they didn't bother to check any further with our team coach or any of the other parents. I don't mind being questioned about this type of shooting, I just don't want to be told I have to stop, without a valid reason.
  9. PeteZ28


    Oct 5, 2007
    Newtown, PA
    Laws don't tell you what you CAN do, they tell you what you CANNOT do.

    If there is no specific law against doing something, then it is legal.

    Some locals may have ordinances against certain things that are ordinarily legal. For example; no parking zones. Obviously nothing illegal about parking a car, but they CAN restrict where you park IF they have good reason.

    Same applies to photography. If there is no POSTED ordinance or official sign stating you cannot photograph, then it is to be assumed you are allowed. If approached, ask to see the specific rule stating you cannot. If the person contesting your activities cannot provide you with proof, ignore them and move on with your day. Everyone is a legal expert when they want to regulate another persons activities, until you ask them to prove it. This includes law enforcement. They CANNOT extend any authority over what you are doing unless they have a specific law or ordinance to charge you with. If they try and block your shooting by standing purposely in your view, call his/her CO and file harrassment charges.

    Stand up for your rights, or you will loose them.
  10. Lurker


    Jul 21, 2007
    This is a hot subject. As mentioned before, the US law (and similar in most western countries) is roughly that you're free to photograph anything that can be seen from public accessible locations with a few exceptions (military bases, govt buildings, etc).

    Having said that, security forces (official law enforcement and private security firms alike) have a tendency to make up laws on the spot stating that you cannot take pictures (usually: you can), that you have to show the images (pretty much: never) and that you have to erase them (aka confiscating your film: never).

    How to deal with that is a different story. Complying and asking for a badge number, followed by filing a complaint at the local office seems to be the safest way to go but you'll lose the shot. Sticking to your guns and quoting the first amendment is a good tactic if you want to shoot some great youtube videos but you might be handcuffed and spending the night in jail. Then again, freedom is sometimes worth fighting for, right?
  11. PeteZ28


    Oct 5, 2007
    Newtown, PA

    If nobody ever sat on the front of the bus 50 years ago, taxpayers would still be paying for seperate water fountians...

    Freedom is ALWAYS worth fighting for, and it's a battle that must be constantly waged. There will always be someone looking to take it away.
  12. fishnfst


    Dec 11, 2007
    Lotsa good info in the write up... Thanks for posting the link...
  13. demosaic

    demosaic Guest

    In the States it used to be commonplace to ridicule the Soviet Union for their preposterous bans on photography. It was unthinkable that in the U.S. we might impose similar bans on photographing things that are plainly visible to people in public places.

    This is an awful trend.
  14. In regards to sports, if its say an open field, something like Central Park (keeping it to nyc, since I know its an open place), I would say it's fair game (pun intended). But something like a school park or University, you have to abide by their rules.
    Example being, if you went to either Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium (Mets), fans are not allowed to bring SLR's with lenses bigger than 6 inches (last time I checked).
  15. kays


    Aug 9, 2008
    Here's a little light reading on the subject.

    Carolyn E. Wright has published Photographer's Legal Guide - useful publication. There is also a lot of good information to be gleaned from her blog.

    An interesting summary of photographer's rights...

    Also, a site, like Carolyn's above - they, like most lawyers, do not always see eye-to-eye.

    The bottom line to all of this is to pick your fights and when to fight them. Even though you may be well within your rights to be photographing something, it may not be in your best interest to press your point THERE and THEN. Especially in the heat of the moment, it is easy for one or the other to step over the line - and you'll end up in the pokey.
  16. All those links are great. And in the United States, the 1st Amendment has EVERYTHING to do with photography.

    A general rule of thumb if it is a public area owned by the public you can take all the pictures you want as long as it is not specifically posted and prohibited, like secure areas of an airport. You can also generally take pictures of things that are private but clearly visable from public areas.

    Key is owned by the public NOT open to the public. For instance a mall is open to the public but privately owned. If they don't want you there then they can set the rules.
  17. That is incorrect. Change homeland security to the "Feds" and we have been told to look at photographers for a long time. Terrorism in the USA has been around a lot longer than a lot of people seem to perceive.

    This is incorrect as well. MOST security forces are trained in how to deal legally with photographers and do so appropriately. Sometimes, some fool officer, losses his/her mind and does something, well, foolish. The last time I am aware of that this happened was in Philly, where a badge heavy (meaning not thinking) cop arrested someone for taking pictures of a takedown with a cell phone camera. That photographer got arrested. It made headline national news. But.....The arrest was expunged and that city settled out of court for a large sum.

    People call in suspicious people whether photographing something or not for ages, long before I became an officer. Sometimes they turn out to be something, most of the times its nothing at all. But we have an obligation to check them out. If its nothing at all we usually thank them for their time.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2008
  18. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I'll just point out that the individuals' right to privacy does not apply in privately own spaces that are open to the public any more than it does in govt-own places opened to the public. If the property owner of such a place wishes to restrict photography they can do so; but if the property owner does not restrict photography other members of the public have no grounds to stop you from taking their picture.
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