Update: We hear that all charges against Rhonda Hollander have been dropped after a judge found the testimony “not credible.”
In the United States, anyone can be photographed in most public places without their consent… as long as they don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A female traffic magistrate named Rhonda Hollander was arrested last week after following a man into a courthouse bathroom and photographing him as he used the urinal.
When Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Darlene Harden confronted Hollander a short time later, the magistrate admitted taking a picture but refused to turn over her phone, arguing that it was a public restroom and she was not violating any laws, according to the report. [#]
Other places where people have an expectation of privacy include homes, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths. Basically, it helps to have some common sense.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a new law last week that makes it a crime to post images to the Internet that “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress.” Violators found guilty of doing so now face up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.
[…] for image postings, the “emotionally distressed” individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court decides you “should have known” that an image you posted would be upsetting to someone who sees it, you could face months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. [#]
Needless to say, the Internet is in an uproar over this, and it seems pretty likely that the law will be struck down for being unconstitutional very soon.
On Memorial Day 2011, Narces Benoit witnessed and filmed a group of Miami police officers shooting and killing a suspect in a car chase and armed robbery. He was then confronted by officers who handcuffed him and smashed his cell phone, but Benoit was able to sneakily preserve the video with some quick thinking. The Miami Herald writes,
Benoit said the officers eventually uncuffed him after gunshots rang out elsewhere and he discreetly removed the [memory] card and placed it in his mouth.
Officers again took his phone, demanding his video. He said they took him to a nearby mobile command center, snapped a picture of him, then took him to police headquarters and conducted a recorded interview while he kept the [memory] card in his mouth. He insisted his phone was broken.
Apple recently filed a patent having to do with baking infrared communication capabilities into the iPhone. Although there are certainly useful applications for the technology (e.g. a museum beaming information to the phone at different exhibitions), what’s troubling is that the feature may also allow the camera to be remotely disabled by those who wish to prevent photography.
[…] the transmitter could be located in an area where photography is prohibited and the infrared signal could include encoded data that represents a command to disable recording functions.
This example could easily apply to movie theatres trying to stop customers from filming a movie for illegal distribution or any kind of music concert to protect an artist’s image from being photographed or videoed illegally, as shown below. [#]
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a camera that could be disabled remotely by a third party…
29-year-old student and avid photographer Christopher Fussell was taking photographs of trains at a Baltimore station back in March when he was confronted by Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) officers. He was able to record the conversation, which shows the officers having a complete lack of understanding of laws and photographers’ rights. Fussell writes,
I have no qualms with MTA Police inquiring what I’m doing, but the fact that they took it to the next level with so many lies, unreasonable detainment, denying my boarding of my train that caused me to be delayed and following me to delay me further; this whole episode of theirs was unprofessional and perhaps unconstitutional. I am posting this video in hopes to further strengthen photographer’s constitutional rights.
The story has since become a pretty big deal after the video went viral online, with the MTA admitting that the officer had incorrectly cited the Patriot Act and other laws. The American Civil Liberties Union has also sided with Fussell and may sue MTA over his detainment.
Libertarian magazine Reason created this video about the erosion of photographers’ rights in the United States. One of the cases highlighted is the one involving Antonio Musumeci, who was arrested for filming a government building and came out victorious in a lawsuit with the help of the NYCLU.
In November 2010, Talking Points Memo published an article that included a wire photo taken on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. Yesterday they received a cease and desist letter from the NYSE claiming that photos of the trading floor cannot be displayed without the NYSE’s permission, and that it owns trademark rights to images of the floor:
NYSE has common law and Federal trademark rights in and to NYSE’s name and images of the Trading Floor […] NYSE owns Federal tradmark rights in one depiction of the Trading Floor and common law rights in the Trading Floor viewed from virtually any angle […] Accordingly, NYSE has the right to prevent unauthorized use of its Trademarks and reference to NYSE by others. [#]
You can read the two page C&D letter here. What are your thoughts on this?
After Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on its final mission, a woman named Stefanie Gordon snapped a photograph of it from her Delta airlines seat using her iPhone, sharing it with friends and family through TwitPic. Though it quickly went viral, and was shared all over the media, Gordon was only paid by five media organizations for licensing rights to the photo. The Red Tape blog over on MSNBC wrote a great post a couple days ago bringing the issue of copyright infringement to the public’s attention:
In a world where social media users, bloggers and even some professional journalists are increasingly comfortable simply copying the work of others and republishing it, can intellectual property rights survive? Can original content survive? And what should the world do when an amateur photographer takes a newsworthy photo and shares it on a social network?
We didn’t share Gordon’s photo here on PetaPixel because we never got her permission to do so (she never responded to our requests). Luckily for us, NASA just published this awesome (non-copyrighted) photograph of the launch that you can freely share and republish.
Since launching in 2008, TwitPic has been at the center of quite a few copyright controversies and legal battles, especially when disasters strike and Twitter users are able to publish photos of things that are happening well before major news outlets. Back in early 2010 photographer Daniel Morel had an iconic photograph taken during the Haiti earthquake widely republished in newspapers across the world without his permission after he uploaded the photos to TwitPic, then later that year Twitter’s decision to display TwitPic photos directly on their website caused a brouhaha. TwitPic has finally decided to update their Terms of Service to make it clear that users of the service retain the copyright of everything they upload. Read more…