At some point, photography became a danger to society. We don’t know when this happened or why, but more and more photography hobbyists are experiencing questioning, detention and the illegal seizure of their memory cards and equipment. As a photographer, I think it is crucial to educate the rest of the community about their legal rights. Please not that this post refers to the laws of the United States.
Your rights as a photographer:
- Anyone in a public space can take pictures of whatever they desire — whether they’re framing up private property from a public space, or taking photographs of models, celebrities, law enforcement, etc.
- If you’re on private property and asked not to take pictures, don’t take pictures.
- Sensitive government buildings can prohibit photography, it’s a National Security thing.
- Taking photos of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism.
- You don’t have to explain why you’re taking photos, nor do you have to disclose your identity to private security companies (though in some cases, you may if actual law enforcement is involved).
- Private parties, such as security companies, have very limited rights to detain you. Legal action could be taken against them if they harass you.
- No one has the right to take your camera, film, memory card, or other equipment. This applies to law enforcement, as well — they need a court order to seize these items.
Everyone has the right to approach everyone in public. If a security guard comes to you in public, and starts to grill you, the conversation ends when you say it does.
Download TIF for Moocard (.zip)
If there is a space open to the public on private property, it is open to the public and therefore considered public domain. This includes shops and restaurants. It is still private property, and you can be asked to leave or not take photos, but outside of that, absolutely nothing can be done if you are doing nothing on property open to the public.
When confronted, you don’t have to tell people what you’re doing, what you’re shooting, or why. They also don’t have the right to demand your equipment, to see your photos, your identification, or anything else.
If the issue escalates to the police being involved, either because you called them or the security guards notified them, chances are you’ll just be questioned and released — if you’re polite, cooperative, and non-combative.
Keep your cool — you’re not doing anything wrong (duh) and that’s just how it is. Worst case scenario is, you show off some of your amazing photographs to a few folks. If you play your cards right, you might even get a few fans — extra points if you can swing this all the time, actually.
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Originally published on nrek.co on September 09, 2011.