Dracil’s BlogJournal

June 25, 2008

Photographers’ Rights

Filed under: Controversy, photography — Tags: , , , , — dracil @ 11:02 pm

One thing that’s come up a few times when I or people I know have been out taking pictures is whether we are actually allowed to do so.  Apparently, in the US, the answer is YES most of the time.  Note, this is purely in the legal sense.  Using common sense and possible ethical dilemmas are another matter.

Situations that I’ve personally encountered so far are:

1) Whether it’s ok to take a picture of a “haunted” house even if the owner is willing to call the cops on you
2) Whether movie theaters have the right to confiscate your stuff if they find you taking pictures inside the theater
3) Whether you can take pictures of people in general even if they object.

The answers to these three questions appear to be yes, no, yes.

In the first case, as long as you’re not on their property, they cannot do anything.  You’re not trespassing and that’s really the key point.  In the second case, nobody can take your stuff without a warrant basically.  If they do, they set themselves up for criminal charges.  The third case is probably the most complicated, because the context matters, during when the picture is taken, and whether or not (or how) the photo is published.  Generally, if the person is in a public place (even on private property) and cannot expect privacy, they’re fair game.  However, you cannot reveal private information about the person or misrepresent them in any way.

Two documents I’ve found quite useful are listed below:

http://www.kantor.com.nyud.net:8080/blog/Legal-Rights-of-Photographers.pdf
http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf

Now, again, this is just the legal stuff.  It’s not going to stop a thug from breaking your camera (or your neck) or protect you from being lynched when some overly paranoid people decide you’re a pedophile because you took some pictures of kids.  So common sense is still a necessity.  :P

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