Public’s Right to Photograph Federal Buildings Upheld by Settlement

On November 9th, 2009, Software programmer Antonio Musumeci was filming the arrest of a protestor outside a federal courthouse in NYC when he himself was arrested. His main camera was confiscated, but he recorded the entire encounter on a second camera (the resulting video is above). In April 2010, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued the government on Musumeci’s behalf, and yesterday it was was announced that a settlement had been reached, with the government recognizing the public’s right to photograph and film in public spaces outside federal buildings.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Federal Protective Service agreed to inform its officers and employees in writing of the “public’s general right to photograph the exterior of federal courthouses from publicly accessible spaces”. They also agreed to pay $1,500 in addition to $3,350 for legal fees.

Here’s the full text of the settlement:

Needless to say, this is a pretty big win for the right of photographers to photograph in public.

(via NYTimes Lens Blog)

  • David

    The settlement only applies to federal courthouses, not federal buildings in general.

  • Carolina

    American cops try to scare everyone with their wannabe power. they are such idiots

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks David =)

    The point was more that photographing federal buildings from public locations is already a right, and the result of this smaller battle over a federal courthouse confirms that broader right.

  • Mouring

    In truth, it really isn’t much of a win. The judge stated that the two parties agreed to settle, and the case is now closed. The best you can call it is they admitted they weren’t following the law as written.

    The thing that is of concern is this may not spread to other states or even other Federal Judaical Districts. FPS may be a national wide group, but a lot of policies on how things are handled are done on a build-by-build basis.

    The best this does from a legal perspective is give a citation that is very weak due to lack of a judge’s ruling.

    However, I am happy that FPS admitted wrong doing. I found FPS in Minnesota to be pretty reasonable when I worked for the Federal Courts in St Paul and Minneapolis.

  • BigTallGates

    It’s often similar in the UK. It’s not a country thing, it’s a power-with-lack-of-oversight thing.

  • pho2art

    Try photographing buildings in London especially using a DSLR; it won’t be long before you are challenged.

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  • Kenny Aldrich

    “but right now you’re going to get the dick” is that what this jerk said? wow glad you won this.