Be(ware) aware of the law…

One of the things I’ve always taken for granted is the right of a photographer to shoot in public places. Now that appears to be in danger, according to a Gizmodo report on citizen videos posted to Facebook and youtube and police reaction.

According to this article,

In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

The premise is based on existing laws that prohibit recording (audio) without the consent of all parties – if that is the law in your state. Apparently this applies even if you are on public property.

The cases involved are citizens recording what they consider to be abuses by law enforcement. In one case it even involved a man recording his own arrest. The charges he was arrested for were dropped – but the charges related to “illegal recording” were not.

The summation:

…recordings that are flattering to the police – an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog – will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.

This has a chilling effect on both the citizenry and mainstream media. In my mind the media IS the citizenry – always on the alert to protect the rights of those it serves. For now these laws have not been applied against working media. However, this shouldn’t matter because NO ONE should be able to define who the media are.

What are those 45 words? Oh yeah:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That aside, for some good advice in regards to this issue, check out a report from Al Tompkins in which he interviews some lawyers about your best defense if caught in a situation which might place you in jeopardy.

Oh – and always be aware of the laws in your state. What is implied consent today (there you are with camera obviously up, logo on the gear, oh so very much the employed newsperson) may change in an instant. And you could be the case that decides it for the rest of us.

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3 thoughts on “Be(ware) aware of the law…

  1. That station logo may not serve to show implied consent…especially if your station issues babycams making you look more like an average joe running around with a camera and not the traditional news photog with the huge shoulder mounted camera (doubly so if you have an aversion to wearing flashy station logowear).

    Naturally of course, I don’t see any editorials from the SPJ, RCFP or the NPPA condemning these laws. I’m presuming because they are being enforced against the public and not the working press.

    While its a stretch to relate it to these laws and implied consent, ask Rick Portier what assumptions a couple coaches had when they had him forcibly ejected from a game.

  2. The implied consent (per Poynter) comes from being very obvious that you are taping. Logo and logwear and so-called “professional” gear is only part of it.

    My argument is they cannot define who the media are.

    Possibly the reason you haven’t seen much is cause this is pretty new.

  3. Oh – and don’t get me going about abuses of the media. I’ve had billy clubs swung at me, been in handcuffs, the whole gamut. There has always been a small segment of law enforcement who thinks they can ignore the law and do as they please. I just don’t want their views given any legal authority.

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