Public Photography Is Legal
The United States moved up three spots from 48th in 2019 to 45th place for 2020 in World Press Freedom Index. 45th place? This is not good for "the land of the free." Arrests, assaults, and harassments of people exercising their Freedom of the Press are common in the US. The Scandinavian countries rank highest, as always, as the freest countries in the world.
First - here are some basics about photography in public. This is why tourists, photographers, the paparazzi photographers, and others can do what they do.....
- To videotape or photograph anything or anyone from public places is legal. You do not require permission from people, companies, or anyone as long as you are in public.
- You can film anyone and everything that your eyes can see from a public place.
- You can be filmed in public because there is no way you can expect to be private when out in public.
- We have the freedom of the press and everyone with a camera is the press. Even if you decide to take a picture with your cell phone you are the press.
The freedom of the press is for media and for the people that don't work for the media. You have the right to disseminate information without being harassed for it or controlled by the government. That means that you can take up your phone and record anyone or anything you can see from the public.
- You can take pictures of all our public places and public buildings in the U.S, both inside and outside, where the public is allowed to be and if there are no restrictions. Public Libraries, Courthouses, Police Stations, FBI Buildings, Post Offices, Military Facilities, Prisons, City Halls, Town Halls, Fire Stations, Airports, Parks, and more.
We, the people, are the ones who pay for those buildings and everything that's inside them. We pay for furniture, computers, printers, office supplies, electricity, air conditioners, art, wallpaper, books, and more, including the people who work there to serve us.
If a lobby is open to the public you can record. You can also record foyers, corridors, auditoriums, and entrances. Most of the policies and rules in places like this is not law. It is their policies. And their rules and policies aren't above the laws and the Constitution of the United States.
- We, the people of the United States have the right to record video and audio of the police and other public employees carrying out their duties in public places. They work for us. We pay their salaries. (Not all the police officers and other public workers get that but we pay them to serve us).
- Photography is a First Amendment Protected Activity. The First Amendment protects the right to take videos, pictures, and record audio without our public officials' consent. This constitutional right overrides all state or federal laws that would otherwise prohibit such recording.
It also protects and gives us the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property with our tax dollars, and the right to record matters of public interest.
- Homeland Security has issued a notice to federal employees not to disrupt people photographing a federal building.
Why Are Americans So Afraid Of A Camera?
A lot of people run away when they see a photographer. Or they walk up to the cameraman and say "you do not have my permission to take pictures", or even assault people with a camera.
Do we live in North Korea, or the 1930-40's Germany? "Show me your paper that gives you permission to take pictures". What is going on? Why the fear? The fear of cameras makes people stupid in "the land of the free and the home of the brave".
Average Americans are video recorded about 35 times every day. That's 245 times each week. Cameras on rooftop films you, cameras on walls, cameras in shopping malls, and more. There are cameras everywhere. They watch every move you make and hear everything you say. So why bother if someone takes a picture of something in public?
20 years ago people walked up to a camera and made funny poses and if someone recorded a video people walked up and made a comment like "hi" or "hi mom".
But today, people dial 911, and the police come and say "zeig mir deine Papiere" (show me your papers). Well, of course not all police officers, but way too many do. Why? For a camera? For a constitutionally protected activity?
Not all is bad. Studies show that the ideology of fear is loosening its grasp on the American psyche.
Who Was Anders Chydenius?
- A Little Background On The First Amendment
The Freedom of information Act was passed in the United States in 1966 and became effective through improvements made to it in 1974. Already 200 years before the Act was passed in the United States, such an Act had been passed in Sweden.
The world's first freedom of information legislation was adopted by the Swedish parliament on 2 December 1766, along with the freedom of the press, free speech, and more.
Anders Chydenius was a member of the Swedish parliament. He was an original thinker on his own who came up with freedom ideas long before the economist and philosopher Adam Smith, and the founding fathers, and before the American revolutionaries.
He made sure that Sweden had the freedom of the press, free speech, free trade, natural equality, the freedom of assembly, the right to petition government for redress of grievances. the freedom of labor, the right of people to offer their services on voluntary terms to other people, to negotiate, to move where they wanted to go, to leave the country if they wanted to, to live wherever they wanted to live, and much more.
Anders Chydenius worked for that the freedom of information (FOI) should be a human right to make governments accountable. In 1766, Chydenius and his party seized the majority and government and championed the world's first freedom of information legislation were adopted by the Swedish parliament.
Anders Chydenius had a major influence on American thinkers, the founding fathers, and real-life politics.
Chydenius published several political pamphlets. He published a pamphlet called "The National Gain" (1765), in which he proposes ideas of all the freedoms the people of Sweden should have: free press, free speech, free trade, and industry.
In the content he explores the relationship between economy and society, and lays out the principles for liberalism, capitalism, and modern democracy. A society based on liberty, equality, and respect for human rights. In the book, Chydenius published theories which Adam Smith many years later copied and published in his pamphlet called "The Wealth of Nations".
The peace of paper with the First Amendment doesn't separate us in the U.S from other democratic countries. It is actually a copy of what other countries around the world had before us, and the original is Swedish.
"The freedom of a nation is always proportional to its freedom of the press so that one cannot exist without the other."
Important Aspects You Need To Know As A Photographer
Your rights to take photographs and videos in public places in the United States are enshrined in the First Amendment under free speech and free press. It highlights all the aspects of the snapping of the pictures of the various monuments when you are on vacation or doing journalism in the streets.
It's appropriate to identify all the rights which you are entitled to, and this would make your adventures to be relatively easier for you. The basic general rule in the streets is that "when you see it then you can take a picture of it." In this case, when you are in a public location, you are allowed to take pictures.
Texas Improper Photography Statute
There is an "improper photography" statute in Texas, making it illegal to take a photograph without consent from the relevant authority. But the First Amendment protects an individual's right to exercise free speech and photography and the statute in Texas isn't above the First Amendment.
The Texas statute did not pass a test when Ronald Thompson was arrested and charged with improper photography in 2011. The Texas statute went too far and violated Thompson's constitutional rights and he won the case.
This was a difficult case because Thompson's behavior was creepy and he was seen taking pictures of kids under the water. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with him when he said the improper photography statute in Texas violated he's constitutional rights.
What Constitute Public Places?
Public places in the country are meant for the public, and the citizens pay taxes to help maintain public places. When you are in public places, then it's within your rights to takes photographs. You can take photos of all the buildings and all people as long as you are in the public forum.
Important Things Which You Should Note While Taking Photos In Public
You can take photos of privately owned properties as long as you are on public property. For instance, you can take photos of yourself or your partner and enjoy a restaurant's background.
Unfortunately, people in the USA are more fearful and, sad but true, less educated than people in other democratic countries, and therefore such activities would warrant someone to give a better explanation, which would help clear any doubts whatsoever.
You are allowed to sell or display images. Once you have taken the photos in public, you can display or even sell the images you have photographed.
For instance, many people take photos in public and use them in the blog, news media, and other online platforms. It's your right to use the photos you have taken in public in whatsoever means, and there will be no restrictions.
Freedom of Expression vs. The Right to Privacy As a general rule, the photographer shooting in public has rights without the consent of the subjects. There is a need for the line to be drawn between the freedom of the expression and the right to other people's privacy in the streets.
The rights have been set clear in the First Amendment on the freedom of expression, and the Supreme Court has interpreted it, and this was meant to create a free society that can allow someone to express his freedom.
Your Right To Film Police - Taking photographs in public spaces is a constitutional right, including the polices and other law enforcement officers. However, in recent days the polices have been ordering people to stop taking photographs in public places, and many people have been arrested and detained by the police. If the police stop you from taking photographs, you should observe the following:
If you are stopped by the police while taking photographs, you can ask, "if you are free to go."
If the police detainees, you should ask politely what crime you have committed and then remind the police it is your right to take photos in public.
Rights As A Photographer - When you are in public places, you are lawfully allowed to take photographs in the plain view. It includes the building and also people.
If you are in a private property, the property owner may set rules which regulate taking photographs in the building.
Law enforcement officers may not demand to view or confiscates photographs and videos without issuing you a warrant.
Police officers are not allowed to delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
It's important to note that your rights to take photographs and videos do not mean you break other laws set in the constitution.
Taking Photographs And Video On Police Brutality
There are police who are involved with police brutality in public streets. Some people have captured this police brutality on camera, which has been used as evidence to prosecute the police. This is what you need to do:
Stand at a very safe distance and, if possible, make uses of your phone to record video of the situation.
Do not hide the fact that you are recording the incidents. There is a right to film the police like any other person in public.
Whether you are taking photos or taking videos, ensure that you write down the police officer's number or the patrol car number plate.
Above and beyond the legal restrictions set to regulate taking photographs in public, common sense should always prevail. There is a need for photographers to ensure there is the protection of other people's privacy while taking photos in public.
Each photographer has the right to take photographs in public as it's enshrined in the First Amendment.
Another important consideration that should be made is that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has allowed people to take photos in the airport as long as this does not interfere with the screening process.
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