Photography is Right

Now more than ever photographers are under fire from government officials to stop taking pictures of “sensitive infrastructure”. Never mind that there is no evidence showing that photography has played an important role
in any terrorist attack in the last forty years. Perhaps more importantly unrestricted photography by private citizens has played a critical role in the fight for civil rights and protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. Much of the harassment faced by photographers is due to a lack of understanding by both the general public and police forces about what is and is not permitted in the United States. In general, if you’re on public property or have permission from the land owner you can photograph anything you want from that location. This has not changed by the implementation of the PATRIOT Act or any other national legislation to date which is a common mistake made by government officials. For a more complete understanding of the laws involved I suggest taking a look at Attorney Bert P. Krages The Photographer’s Right”. For a truly in depth look at the laws and concerns for photographers take a look at Bert’s book “Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images“.

Unfortunately, many police officers (and even federal agents) fail to understand these rights. One grievous example of this is the story of Ian Spiers, a Washington state resident and photography student, who was harassed by police on two occasions for taking photographs of a local lock and dam as part of a photography assignment. He details his experience on his web site Brown Equals Terrorist. Lest you think this is an isolated case I suggest you listen to the National Public Radio Morning Edition story where they interview several East coast photographers who have also been harassed. The rights of photographers are being trampled from coast to coast and over zealous government officials who seem to have no understanding of the law and little regard for individual rights are making a mockery of the constitution. If you’re interested in this sort of thing one resource where you can stay up to date on the issue is the news site which tracks news stories related to legal issues surrounding photography.

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