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.
…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.