December 2, 2009
Infowars has posted numerous stories and videos documenting police and security guards harassing photographers and videographers in public spaces. In the United States, it is entirely legal for you to photograph people, buildings, infrastructure, and even criminal activity in public, so long as you do not interfere with the police. You don’t need permission and the cops cannot legally stop you or confiscate your camera, film, or video tape.
Earlier this year, Aaron Dykes was threatened with arrest in downtown Kansas City, Missouri after filming the local branch of the private Federal Reserve building. Security guards working for the Fed approached Infowars reporters at a city park that houses the National WWI memorial and demanded that they provide their names and disclose why they were filming the building.
Dykes and the Infowars crew were legally photographing the Federal Reserve building but this did not stop over-zealous rent-a-thugs from threatening them.
In February, an independent videographer attempted to photograph the Federal Reserve building in Washington from a public sidewalk and was told he was violating the law by a Fed cop. See the video:
Video Link Here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=a15_1234390062
In 2007, WeAreChange founder and activist Luke Rudkowski was threatened with arrest by New York police for refusing to stop filming on a public sidewalk outside the offices of Larry Silverstein. Cops dressed in street clothes accused Rudkowski of having a gun and a bomb in his backpack. “It is a serious federal and state crime to publicly state that someone has a bomb and is a terrorist when not true — like extreme example of yelling fire in a theater — and needs to be prosecuted,” Alex Jones and Aaron Dykes wrote for the Jones Report on April 27, 2007.
In Britain, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, citizens taking photographs can be stopped, have their film or digital media confiscated or deleted, and can even be arrested and charged as terrorists.
The police state is not as advanced in the United States. For now, a photographer has the right to photograph in public, but that may change.
Below is a link to an information sheet that details your rights as a photographer. It is based on the Bust Card and the Know Your Rights pamphlet that used to be available on the ACLU website. According to Bert P. Krages II, who distributed the sheet, you may distribute the guide to others, provided that such distribution is not done for commercial gain and credit is given to the author.
“The right to take photographs in the United States is being challenged more than ever,” writes Krages. “People are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. For the most part, attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.”
Ironically, unrestricted photography by private citizens has played an integral role in protecting the freedom, security, and well-being of all Americans. Photography in the United States has an established history of contributing to improvements in civil rights, curbing abusive child labor practices, and providing important information to crime investigators. Photography has not contributed to a decline in public safety or economic vitality in the United States. When people think back on the acts of domestic terrorism that have occurred over the last twenty years, none have depended on or even involved photography. Restrictions on photography would not have prevented any of these acts. Furthermore, the increase in people carrying small digital and cell phone cameras has resulted in the prevention of crimes and the apprehension of criminals.
As the flyer states, there are not very many legal restrictions on what can be photographed when in public view. Most attempts at restricting photography are done by lower-level security and law enforcement officials acting way beyond their authority. Note that neither the Patriot Act nor the Homeland Security Act have any provisions that restrict photography. Similarly, some businesses have a history of abusing the rights of photographers under the guise of protecting their trade secrets. These claims are almost always meritless because entities are required to keep trade secrets from public view if they want to protect them.
The Photographer’s Right. Click image to download as PDF.