Saturday, June 30, 2012

Photography Is Not A Crime - Blogging, The First Amendment, And Your Camera

Even at this relatively mild blog, I've been threatened with law suits twice, and I was accused on a local talk show of killing someone with a post that didn't even mention the guy and which was much more factual and restrained than the talk show host. 

So I have an interest in people who blog about first amendment rights for bloggers and  for photographers - especially those who are keeping public officials honest.  It began with a Reason post I stumbled on which gave three rules for how to photograph a cop from Carlos Miller:
Get it on video. Police think twice when dealing with video, as opposed to a still camera. If your camera has video capabilities, start rolling. If you have a smart phone, use a live stream service like Qik that stores the video online immediately. Inform the officer that the video is live streaming and people are already watching it online.
Assert your rights. Police also think twice when dealing with people who know their rights. Inform the officers that they need a subpoena before confiscating your camera, even if they demand it “as evidence.” Police can confiscate your camera only if it was used in the commission of a crime, such as child pornography.
Just leave. Ask the officers if you are being detained or are free to leave. If they are detaining you, they must have reasonable suspicion you are committing a crime. Taking pictures or video in public is not reasonable suspicion. If they are not detaining you, then you are free to leave—with your camera.
 This led me to Miller's blog - Photography is Not a Crime - which is full of stories about people having problems when they photograph or video tape cops in action or just in public places.  Here are links to some of his recent posts:

[UPDATE July 30, 2013:  I've updated the link to Photography is Not a Crime above.  I've removed the links below, but if you go to the link above, you'll find lots of examples like these.]
This last one is about a West Point grad who served in Iraq who was arrested.

My short visit to his blog does suggest that Miller tends to take the side of the photographer and while I'm sure there are photographers who provoke police, I'd guess more often than not, police are simply irritated and taking advantage of their power.  In any case,  it is useful to be aware what kind of trouble your camera (or smartphone) can get you into and know your rights before something happens.

That led to looking for other blogs focused on blogging, photography, and the first amendment. - the most recent post I could find was August 2011, but there are interesting stories by " San Antonio photojournalist and law student Alicia Wagner Calzada"

The Radio, Television, Digital, News Association  Website - has Ethics Guidelines for Social Media and Blogging 

The National Photographers and Photojournalist Association - has articles on rights of photojournalists

For the most part there are articles and posts on this topic on blogs and websites that deal with a wider range of topics.  Here are a few:

Chicago police arresting photographers 

DOJ affirms right to photograph police

PATCO:  Photographers are probably not terrorists

Caught on camera:  Lancashire police arrest amateur photographer

All dressed up and nothing to do except arrest photographers


[UPDATE JULY 30, 2013:  See also this video an encounter with a Swedish police officer for a contrast.]

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