It seems that photography is becoming more vilified each day, with countless reports of police over-stepping their authority and harrassing or even arresting photographers that are well within their legal rights to document a scene. With this in mind the ACLU has published a clear and concise guide to photographers rights in the USA. Well worth a read!
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
As the tension rose in Ferguson Missouri, the world saw the police force working to prevent the citizens from gathering on the street for the purpose of peaceful demonstration. It seems the cops took specific issue with photographers documenting the scene and Getty Photographer Scott Olson was arrested for photographing outside of a desingated press area. A week earlier a photographer from the Huffington Post and another from the Washington Post were arrested and detained for several hours.
Considering the increased militarization of local police forces and the heightened concerns that we all have about police misconduct, photographers rights are as important today as ever.
- When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view.
- When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs.
- Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant.
- Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
- Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.
- Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws.
Of course there’s no substitute for being calm and level-headed when confronted by law enforcement while taking picutres. The ACLU’s guide to photographers rights goes into more detail on this subject inlcuding things you should know if you’re stopped or detained while taking pictures. Click the link below for the full story.