It seems that for the past few days everyone in the photo-blogo-sphere has been in a tizzy (don’t you love that expression?) about the newly proposed legislation in NYC to require photographers/videographers to get a permit and 1,000,000 of insurance to shoot *in public places*
I’m sure you’ve read the news by now, but if you haven’t here’s the article.
(LINK-opens in new window)
Now I’m not one to run down the “oh noes tehy are taking our RIGHTS” path but this bugs me, so I’m going to throw my .02 in.
There have been numerous court cases brought against “public photography” and *every time* the courts (up to the supreme court) have ruled that photography in a public place is protected speech under the first amendment. Putting arbitrary restrictions on photography in public, is essentially just an excuse to get around that pesky “free speech” thing when it is inconvenient. (i.e. – we can’t say that “taking the picture” is illegal, so we’ll say that “standing in one place with the camera for too long” is illegal)
Now you say this legislation is not intended to restrict or censor private photographers, it’s just intended to prevent congestion/disruption by large film crews? Fine. that’s how it’s *intended* (you know, road to hell and all…) But I ask when a law that is so easily abusable *has not* been abused???
consider: the proposed law seems to be worded so vaguely that if you and your buddy are standing there with a pair of cameras chatting for too long, bam, you are in violation. Set up a tripod to take some night shots or architecture? BAM – violation.
It essentially gives law enforcement (and by extension, politicians) carte blanche to disallow any kind of photography/videography *that they don’t like* – effectively silencing any kind of independent media that is “undesirable”.
Consider, hypothetically: the city of NY doesn’t want Michael Moore exposing some of their “not-so-above-the-table” dealings on… <something>. Under the proposed regulations, they can simply confiscate his cameras, and arrest him and his crew. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with Moore’s views, and I think his films are blatant propaganda and intentional distortions of the truth *at best*. HOWEVER – I ALSO believe that the government/city of NY has NO RIGHT to prevent him from filming them. Pesky free speech and all… unfortunately applies even to opinions that you don’t like.
Another unforeseen ramification: this would prevent any independent media from covering any kind of political protest (too many people gathered with cameras for too long…)- ensuring the only coverage that reaches the masses is pre-sanitized, and approved by the “mainstream” outlets.
the potential for abuse is enormous, if the legislation is, in fact, as I understand it.
now this rant is straying dangerously close to a political diatribe so I’ll quit, but I think we can all agree:
If a law is vague enough to be abuseable it WILL BE ABUSED. no matter how noble the intentions are.