New Vermont Bill Would Make it Illegal to Photograph Anybody Without Consent


A short form bill was recently introduced into the Vermont House of Representatives that ought to have photographers curious, if not worried. That’s because this particular bill seeks to “make it illegal to [photograph] a person without his or her consent … and distribute it,” essentially outlawing most forms of public photography.

The bill was proposed by House representative Betty Nuovo in February, and just yesterday began making the rounds on Reddit thanks to user ArchersTest910.

As it stands, the wording of the bill leaves little room for interpretation:

This bill proposes to make it illegal to take a photograph of a person without his or her consent, or to modify a photograph of a person without his or her consent, and to distribute it.

Because it is a “short form bill,” the statement above is literally all there is to it. A short form bill is basically a place holder, a bill that contains no further information than a title and description of its purpose in order to introduce and move an issue that came up during session to committee.

Representative Betty A. Nuovo

Representative Betty A. Nuovo

At this point in the process, the bill has been read once and sent to the House Judiciary committee, with Vermont’s Chief Legislative Attorney Luke Martland listed as the bill’s legal staff. From here, the committee will have to draft a full version of the bill, complete with the exceptions it would require if it is ever to be signed into law.

Given the number of exceptions that would need to be introduced into the bill in order to make it remotely realistic (e.g. What about security cameras? Traffic cameras? What would event photographers do?) the first draft will probably look nothing like the short form bill above.

But if you’d like to keep abreast of the situation, you can read the short form version here and/or follow the bill’s status as it moves through the legislature here.

Update: Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), emailed Representative Bill Lippert of the House of Representatives to voice concern about the bill. Here’s what Lippert responded with:

The House Judiciary Committee, of which I am Chair, has no plans to take up this bill for consideration.

Looks like there’s no chance the bill will get turned into law in Vermont. (Thanks Brian!)

Image credits: Giant Gavel by Sam Howzit and photograph of Representative Nuovo courtesy of Vermont Elections.

  • Jim E King

    You won’t find any other place that isn’t as bad or worse in one way or another & probably several.

  • Jim E King

    No, you don’t ‘Know’ that. You just ‘Hope’ it. LOL

  • Michael Moriatis

    This is a response I got from her today.

    This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont Legislator knows this. I do not believe in it but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature. Rep. Betty Nuovo

  • SRD

    It’s nice to see we can be as wasteful with our time in Vt as they are in Washington! Is this what our tax dollars buys us????

  • Phil

    Does that mean this all took place without her knowledge and/or consent? Constituents can request whatever they want, but a legislator should know they can’t introduce (or “request”) a bill like this.

  • Phyllis Ollari

    No, you give up that in a public place.

  • zylpha

    When contacted directly about this issue this was her response:
    This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont Legislator knows this. Legislatorsdo put in bills that are REQUESTED. It is a fair principal to give constituents an opportunity to propose legislation but it is the legislature’s prerogative to decide whether it has merit. That is what representative government is all about. Citizens may propose but the legislature disposes.
    This bill is not going to be taken up by any Committee in the vermont Legislature

    Rep. Betty Nuovo.

  • Lauren MacIntosh

    I wonder who got her mad by taking her photograph without her permission, She has forgotten as a public Official she is under the spot light 24/7 . I guess she has nothing better to do:

  • Ja Neimannen

    Welcome to the country of freedom??????

  • Steve

    So as a tourist and wanting to take photo’s of your holidays does that mean you have to ask everyone’s permission to take the pics and if not do you ask everyone to move so you can, this is so ridicoulous

  • Difdi

    Even if it were passed, it would be annihilated by the first constitutional challenge. Article 13 of the Vermont constitution would be sufficient to obliterate it, but the 1st and 14th amendments absolutely would.

  • Difdi

    In other words, if you upload the contents of your camera, taken during a trip to see the autumn leaves as a photo album on Facebook, and one person happens to be unintentionally in one photo out of hundreds, this bill would make you a criminal.

  • Difdi

    You do indeed have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but insisting that you have total privacy while out in public isn’t reasonable.

    If it were, anyone who looked at you on the street would be a peeping tom. As would you, if you happened to see anyone else while out in public.

  • James

    If this bill passes, then all government surveillance (street, traffic cams, police dash cams) and store security cameras should be illegal as well.

  • edrea

    Ill-advised bill. The negative implications are enormous. We’re not a state of paranoid people, we are freedom-loving Vermonters. Betty, keep your hands off my camera, my photos, my art, my ability to engage in parody through photo manipulation, my ability to protect citizens from police brutality, my ability to engage in citizen photojournalism. That idea is just plain silly. If Vermont lawmakers try to pass such a law, I’d say there’d be a big turnover in legislators.

  • Komitttt .

    Amazing so many people can be so wrong at the self same time. This has nothing to do with your rights it has to do with other peoples rights. If you want to take pictures of your family or friends in public places or ducks swimming on a pond or a beutiful church thats fine and would not require permission. But what makes you think you have a right to follow other people around that you dont know and photograph them? Its a lot creepy really. And ultimately it takes a paycheck away from the vulure culture of stalking people of notoriety for profit. It should be illegal to publish a picture that you obtained without the subjects approval. And anyone that published the picture should be monitarily liable to the subject. Flame me all you want, I can tell you if you were taking pictures of me and I asked you to stop and you kept doing it id smash your camera.

  • tiny

    this bill is stupid and your a flaming MORON! go the hell away, far far away!

  • Komitttt .

    How does protecting an indiviuals right to privacy equate to MORON? I won’t stoop to your level of name calling. Just to clarify if someone takes a photo and a person is caught in the picture incidentally thats fair game but to follow people around and get up in their face and take pictures it goes beyond rude its invasive to the point of inciting violence. It would be fun if I knew who yofu were so I could get all up in your face with a camera and your wife or girlfriend significant other children whatever Id bet it’d take all of 2 minutes and youd be ready to fight I can tell by the aggressive way you responded. Ill go out on a limb here you probably make your money this way. MORON Pfft.


    right to privacy when out in public and your call me a MORON! stoop to my level, you would have to get up out of the gutter before your anywhere near my “level” idiot! come down to FLORIDA, ill let you take all the images your little heart desires, pea brain! what is about being in public that people like you just dont get? [p.s. you start saying your not going to call me a “name”, then you end doing so. simpleton, and oh ya, i do, i makes tons of $$$$ taking images of idiots just like you!]


    this will never pass! not in one gazillion years!

  • photographer

    blame this on LIBS, you schmuck! lib this lib that, dem this dem that! you all falling for this, it is 2014 damn it, get beyond that you idiots! HHO

  • photographer

    so then!!! what is the UPDATE??? did it pass, did it get into the crap pile where it belongs? what? HHO