One of the reasons photographers raise a fuss when their rights are infringed upon is to create awareness in the general public and among law enforcement. A recent lawsuit between a photojournalist and the Washington DC police department has done just that. The Washington Post reports:
District police cannot interfere with citizens as they photograph or videotape officers performing their jobs in public, according to a new directive issued by Chief Cathy L. Lanier as part of settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The six-page general order, similar to one published by police in Baltimore in November, warns officers that “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.”
[…] “It tells police to leave people alone,” Spitzer said. “It makes it clear that if a person is in a place that interferes with police operations, the officer can ask or tell them to move to another location, but they can’t tell them to stop taking pictures.”
The University of California has agreed to dish out a $162,500 settlement to David Morse, a 43-year-old photographer who was arrested back in 2009 while covering a student protest. The SF Chronicle writes,
[The suit] an officer told Morse, “We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.”
The officers ignored his press pass and arrested him and seven others on suspicion of rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, the suit said.
Morse spent the night in jail. Prosecutors declined to file charges.
But police obtained a search warrant and used several of his photos in brochures and online in hopes that the public could identify individuals.
As part of the settlement, the police department has also agreed to modify its procedures regarding seeking materials from journalists and will be conducting training sessions teaching its officers about media rights.
Amateur Photographer sparked an outcry among photographers this past Tuesday after it pointed out a section in the London Olympics’ ticketholder policies that states:
Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally, and may not exploit images, video and/or sound recordings for commercial purposes under any circumstances, whether on the internet or otherwise, or make them available to third parties for commercial purposes.
Shortly after we reported on the story yesterday, a spokesman for the Olympics organizing committee (Locog) issued a response stating that they “are not looking to stop private individuals from posting photographs on social networks,” and that the intent is to prevent photos being used for commercial purposes. He did, however, acknowledge that the wording is unclear, saying that it will likely be clarified when tickets are mailed.
Photographers have already lodged complaints against the security firm that tried to prevent them from taking photos of the Olympic sites from public land, but it seems that even stricter rules will be imposed on ticket holders once the games begin. According to a freelance photographer named Peter Ruck, the Olympic organizing committee Locog intends to prevent attendees from uploading images and videos captured at the games to social networks. Read more…
In the past year — and especially with the growth of the “occupy” movement — police interfering with photographers or pedestrians trying to snap a photo of them has been in the news quite a lot. Just yesterday we reported on the Olympics’ security guards who landed in hot water after harassing photogs shooting from public land. In the past, this was no problem, as police officers had little to fear in way of personal liability when they interfered; however, a new Connecticut bill — the first of its kind — may soon change that. Read more…
French photographers organization Union des Photographes Professionnels (UPP) launched a controversial new advertising campaign this week, speaking out against the use of photographs without proper permission and/or payment. The ad reads: “Each day, a photographer’s work is used without his consent”. A spokesperson for UPP states,
It’s obvious that professional photographers are not being listened to. So, for the first time, we’re speaking to the photographic community with an image. We hope to raise awareness among the public, as well as the media and the government, about photographers’ problems. Each day, photographers are faced with decreasing rates. They are forced to compete against image libraries that are offering vile prices. These practices are infringing on photographers’ moral rights.
In a blog post, the organization adds, “Each day, photographers risk their lives to allow us to stay informed. And each day, photographers continue to be dealt with as if they weren’t producing anything. […] With this image, we want to show the violent and disrespectful economic reality that photographers have to deal with.”
After being arrested on October 1, 2007 for using his cell phone to film officers making an arrest, Boston lawyer Simon Glik sued the city for violating his civil rights. Late last year the court denied a motion to have the case dismissed, and just yesterday it was announced that the City of Boston had come to a settlement with Glik, agreeing to pay him $170,000 for damages and legal fees. The decision last year and the settlement yesterday both reaffirm that the First Amendment protects the right to photograph and film police officers carrying out their duties in a public place.
David Hobby has written up a great post over at Strobist on how he avoids shoot-ruining confrontations with police officers when shooting in public locations (we shared an example of a confrontation yesterday). His tricks include calling the police ahead of time and leaving notes on the doors of houses nearby:
Before I shoot (a couple hours, usually) I call into the duty officer of the local precinct. I tell them my name, that I am a photographer, and where/when I will be shooting. I explain that, just in case some overenthusiastic passerby calls me in as a suspicious person, I just want to save them a call. I offer them my cell number, and ask if they want my sosh or driver’s license number. I have never been taken up on this, but I would happily give it.
[…] I print up a sheet and stick it in everyone’s door who is within eyeshot of the shoot at night. Because believe-you-me, it you are popping flashes in the woods at 2am, some idiot will absolutely call your butt in. To them, it’s gotta look pretty much like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Some of you might not like these tips because they appear to be the equivalent of putting up a white flag in the fight for photographers’ rights, but they may come in handy if one day you have a critical photo shoot that you can’t afford to have interrupted.
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania-based photographer Jason Macchioni was recently shooting a time-lapse project from an overpass at night when he was approached by police officers who demanded his ID and threatened to arrest him for wiretapping (Macchioni was recording video of the encounter). Macchioni tells us,
I was shooting a time-lapse which I’m still working on, I arrived at this site around 9 and was there for about 3 hours until these two cops rolled up! At first I was calm and refused to give ID, After the second cop was breathing down my neck and really threatening me. I gave in and tried to get them to leave. Then stuff got heated.
Macchioni has enlisted the help of the ACLU in filing a complaint with the police department. Want to learn more about your rights as a photographer in the US? Check out this short cartoon the ACLU released earlier this month.