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.

  • Duke Shin

    Jeez, just because you’re ugly and don’t want to be photographed doesn’t mean nobody should be able to, Betty.

  • Brett

    Good bye tourism and photosharing.

  • Fabian

    Stupid Betty!

  • Nicholas Erwin

    I always ask myself why I live in Vermont, this is just another reason why I want to move..stupid laws. I don’t see this passing..but you never know. I hope it don’t.

  • VT_Citizen

    There is plenty of reasons to live here, however, no one is forcing you to.

  • VT_Citizen

    It’s just a stupid stunt that will go nowhere. Every state has them.

  • Nicholas Erwin

    Tourism is a major part of Vermont’s economy and part of tourism is photography. Do I need to say more? What do you think would happen if they went through with this? I don’t think it would be good for VT.

  • Jim Carroll

    No more security cams or traffic cams then?

  • mike

    Ugly Betty!

  • Fabian

    Betty Bad!

  • Jhawk77

    Clearly, this law will go nowhere. But to even suggest it is an indication that legal restrictions are going too far. What if someone stares as another person too long? Should be outlaw that? To be in public means just that.

  • SgtBoognish

    Impractical, draconian nonsense.

  • Mansgame

    Well, I hate to say it but photographers have brought this on their own by intentionally getting in people’s faces and taking pictures and then saying “There is no law against taking pictures in public!”. Well, now there might be one, tough guy.

  • Troll hunter

    Does that mean I shouldn’t take pictures of you under your bridge?

  • Desmond Clancy

    Would that apply to taking shots of police too!?

  • Libby Stack

    Can’t wait for Google Glass to come to Burlington ;-)

  • Jun-Kai Teoh

    Wouldn’t the First Amendment trump this? Forgive me if I’m asking a silly question.

  • BrokenHelix79

    In what instance does a member of the general public ever have to deal with random photographers getting in their face with a camera? Is there a large paparazzi club in Vermont that no one talks about? Are there abusive street photographers causing chaos in the quiet neighborhoods of Montpelier? Your comment is inflammatory nonsense.

    Tough guy.

  • John B. Mueller

    This is absolutely ridiculous. That means if I go to vermont and take a landscape photo of something and there happens to be some random car/person in the photo far away, it would be illegal to take it? come on Betty and use some common sense. It’s not like there are any paparazzi up there!

  • John Goldsmith

    Rep. Betty Nuovo should consider what Vermont history books will look like without any candid pictures. Of course, newspapers will be challenged as well without the ability to take photographs in the open; democracy doesn’t function so well when the journalists are not able to report effectively. Last but not least, she should read my article on Street Photography & Ethics because some people actually enjoy having their photo taken without consent. No, really. Consider the letter to Fred Herzog, for example:

  • LarryD

    Personally, I wish this law was brought to my state. I despise having my photo taken when I am out in public. I have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and yes, even when walking down the street.

    If you want my photo — ask me first.

    Bravo Betty! – Keep up the hard work.

  • Appertunity Admin

    This law criminalises some of the greatest street photographers. Where would Cartier Bresson be if they had had this law. They really haven’t thought this through, it wouldn’t stop me from taking street shots etc

  • fredkelly

    I was behind that tree. Where’s my lawyer?

  • wilmark johnatty

    Fools in government – just look at the picture!

  • wilmark johnatty

    I would repost your statement replacing the second “st” with a “c”

  • John Goldsmith

    While I hear your privacy concerns, there’s a bigger picture than only your expectations, Larry, which is that photojournalists rely on the ability to freely take photos in public. If they are restricted, so is your democracy. Even more, who is the media today? Given the number of photographs your average citizens take that end up being news, these laws further restrict a free and open society.

    There’s also the fact that your government regularly photographs you in public and I would argue they have more power than any single photographer. If you are worried about your rights, you should tell Rep. Betty to first remove the CCTVs before limiting what a random photographer might do.

    You might also consider how this law would affect you as you walk down the street with a camera. Or, when you visit a tourist site. You might need to tell everyone to “move out of the way” because “I want to photograph the state capital (and you can’t be in my shot).”

    Regardless, if you didn’t read my article, you should at least read this letter sent to 20th century photography great Fred Herzog:

    “Many, many people have sent me letters—I have a whole folder full of them like, for example, the black guy who is walking on Pender Street with the child and the dog. I got a letter from the sister of the girl, and she was very happy to find that picture because she didn’t have any other pictures of her dad and her sister.”

    I’ve received similar letters. Again, this law isn’t only about one person. It’s about everyone, including future generations 50 or 100 years from now, who will want to know how regular people looked on the street, unposed. if you like historical photographs, this law will negatively affect what people see.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    you shouldn’t have any expectation of privacy when you’re in public places, it’s as simple as that.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    exactly. The only place you’ll see photographs of people from our time in the future will be from projects like Human’s Of New York – which is wonderful, but posed photographs aren’t what you always want to look at, it’s not particularly “real” apart from the reality of it being a photograph of a person.

  • IWSYFPhoto

    The Vermont Flag reads “Freedom and Unity” but will now be changed to “Freedom and Unity but not if your taking picture in public”

    This “law, one is trumped by the 1st amendment and 2 is completely un-enforceable.

  • allalalaaaaaaa

    I don’t think taking the photographs is the problem, it’s the “publishing” part.

    Sure, I have no right to stop people from taking photographs in public, but if I happen to be in one of these photos, I think it’s my right that the image not be published or shared online without at least blurring my face.

    The problem is, of course, enforcing such a law.

    If in order to preserve freedom, I cease to have the right to “not have photos of me taken in public” shared or published, I guess freedom must prevail.

    At least people who wear Burqas are safe from those pesky photographers!

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    but there are different types of publishing – if that publishing is intended for sale by the photographer (Getty, for example) then he would need a model release from you, but if it’s a documentary image by a photojournalist then you basically have no say if the image was taken in a public place, its down to the discretion of the agency the photographer works for if faces need to be blurred or not – which 99.9% of the time they won’t be

  • jch9596

    The troubling aspect to this is that somewhere some LEO or security guard could get wind of this and let it enforce his already wrong notion that somehow some form of photography is already illegal.

  • John Goldsmith

    If one did have that expectation, they would go outside and pick their nose or have their hair unkempt. Or, even, without pants. I don’t see too many people outside without pants but that might make for a good photo-op.

  • Alan Green

    what happens to news/sports photography? do you need a signed release from the president if he speaks in vermont or an entire basketball team that plays there?

    if there are hundreds of people in the shot, is that hundreds of criminal counts? what’s the fine/jail time for that many infractions? life w/o the possibility of parole?

    i’ll be moving to a country that has freedom of expression and freedom of the press. (if i can still find one)

  • JoanieGranola

    That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read.

  • Sid Ceaser

    So first it was New Hampshire with the no-aerial photography thing, now Vermont with this?

    C’mon New England, knock it off! I know you are smarter than this!

  • Redstart

    Traffic cameras in Vermont. lol

  • Renato Murakami

    It’s quite unfortunate that it seems stupidity in politics is such an universal thing…
    One has to wonder how much taxpayer money is spent every year due to ignorant proposals like this one. People who:
    1. can’t even think about the consequences of what they are proposing;
    2. don’t even know how much the law already cover the issues they think they have to address;
    3. seems to only be interested in issues directly related to them somehow.
    The crap I have to listen coming from brazilian politics these days, makes me want to quit the human race…

  • crummett

    That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read all day, so far. Jeez, Vermont? What the heck is going on up there?

  • crummett

    Well, so far it specifically says “…illegal to _take_ a photograph of a person without his or her consent….” It sounds like she very much has a problem with the taking of pictures.

  • Michael Moriatis
  • Nate Powers

    I grew up in vermont. Leaf Peepers are a MASSIVE tourism attraction…God forbid you snap a pic of someone in the woods now. Such a shame. Im surprised Bernie didnt smack this woman upside her head.

  • Nicholas Erwin

    Hey we have plenty of traffic cams… seriously. There’s several traffic cams in my town of 5,000 people.

  • Anthony Harden

    Perhaps she’s just mad about her terrible head shot (blown highlights, soft focus, etc, etc) and she’s lashing out at the world the only way she knows how: By proposing inept laws with no chance of passing.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    The land of freedom? Come on…

  • Ken Jones

    Yes, you find them everywhere. A few years ago a bill was introduced that would have outlawed the use of GPS. No more OnStar, Google Maps, etc.

    It got a polite hearing in the Judiciary Sub-committee and that was it.

  • Kjonesdp

    There were several attempts by different jurisdictions to implement a bill like this in order to prevent people from photographing police activity during Occupy Wall Street. Since it was deemed wrong to single out police as off limits some cities and states considered broadening the ban to include all unsanctioned photographing of people.

  • Bored in USA

    Typical liberal politician

  • Jim E King

    There is a difference between taking a picture OF a person and taking a picture that people just happen to be in. If legislation is passed, a distinction definitely needs to be made on that account. In the case of paparazzi that stalk people to take pictures of them, I am all in favor of legislation being passed to prosecute them to the max and anyone taking pictures where a person is the centerpiece of the photo should definitely obtain a release from that person before using their likeness commercially. Nothing wrong with that, and it is usually quite obvious just by looking whether the person is the subject of the photo or just collateral scenery.

  • Jim E King

    Not illegal to take the pic, just illegal to distribute/use commercially w/o release from person who was in photo.