A couple of days ago, I was in a face-off with the postmaster in my community. I was in the post office, taking shots that appealed to me. He stepped in front of the camera, and told me I could not photograph there. Thing ended amicably, and I continued shooting, but that did inspire this blog post about photographer’s rights.
First, the specific federal law, as it applied to my situation, just to fill out the story:
(U) Title 41, Section 102-74.420 of the Code of Federal Regulations provides federal “policy concerning photographs for news, advertising or commercial purposes.” It states that:
“Except where security regulations, rules, orders, or directives apply or a Federal court order or rule prohibits it, persons entering in or on Federal property may take photographs of—
- (a)Space occupied by a tenant agency for non-commercial purposes only with the permission of the occupying agency concerned;
- (b)Space occupied by a tenant agency for commercial purposes only with written permission of an authorized official of the occupying agency concerned; and
- (c)Building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums for news purposes.”
Then, more basic stuff. I’ve snipped out what I found important, or synopsized it, but I urge you to visit the original links below
from: The ACLU (https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/photographers?redirect=free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers)
Your basic rights:
If you are in a public space, and it’s legal for you to be there, then you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes federal buildings, transportation facilities and police.
If you are on private property, then the owner may set rules about photography. If the owner asks you to leave, you must leave, else you can be arrested for trespassing.
Police officers cannon confiscated nor demand to view your images without a warrant.
Police may not delete your photos or video and any circumstances. Officers have faced felony charges of evidence tampering as well as obstruction and theft for taking a memory card.
if your presence IS interfering with their legitimate operations, the can order you to quit.
If you are detained by police, politely as exactly this: “Am I free to go?”. If the officer says no, then again politely as what crime you are suspected of committing. Remind the officer that photography is permitted under the First Amendment, and does not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
There has long been some confusion about photography in national parks because the rules require a permit for commercial photography. However the lead officials in the park service have several times said that this rule only applies to commercial photography which is disruptive and not to individuals. So, for example, if you arrive at the park with 2 models, a crew of 5, still and movie cameras, generators, lighting gear and props, you need a permit (and possibly liability insurance). On the other hand if you are a solo photographer shooting for possible commercial sale, then the normal park rules apply and you can shoot anything and anywhere that any member of the general public is allowed to. Some areas in Washington DC parks and monuments restrict the use of tripods (for safety reasons), but not photography with a hand held camera.
Photographer’s Legal Rights Card
Photographers have a right to photograph public activities that occur in a public space, or which are photographed from a public space. This includes but is not limited to sidewalks, streets, public transportation systems, plazas, parks, and other places that the public is allowed to be. Attempts to prevent this photographer from exercising these rights may subject you to criminal and civil penalties for harassment and coercion.
Here’s an other good article:
Finally, there is HR 5893, the Ansel Adam Act, which is not yet passed, but languishes in the Judiciary Committee:
Ansel Adams Act – Declares that it is contrary to U.S. public policy to prohibit or restrict photography in public spaces, whether for private, news media, or commercial use.
Requires a federal agency, should it seek to restrict photography of its installations or personnel, to obtain a court order that outlines the national security or other reasons for the restriction. Instructs that such court order shall allow restrictions of such photography when it may lead to the endangerment of public safety or national security.
Prohibits any federal government agency from requiring fees, permits, or insurance as a condition to take still or moving images on federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or commercial use.
Prohibits federal law enforcement officers or private contractors from seizing any photographic equipment or their contents or memory cards or film nor from ordering a photographer to erase the contents of a camera or memory card or film.
Final tip: Feel free to copy as much of this as you like, print it into a PDF or save as text, and carry it with you on your cell-phone.